August 2010

Paramedic jailed for breaking his baby’s arm


A paramedic who broke his baby son’s arm in an “unforgivably brutal and shocking” attack – but was cleared of his murder – was jailed for three years today.

Gavin Gibbs whispered “please forgive me” as three-month-old Charlie’s life support machine was turned off in hospital in October 2008

But he told an Old Bailey jury that he was saying sorry to his infant son because he had not been able to save him from dying.

The court heard that 17 days before Charlie died in hospital from brain damage, Gibbs deliberately twisted and broke his arm

It caused an injury worse than any that the pathologist who later examined him had ever seen in a child so young

Sentencing 41-year-old Gibbs for the attack, Judge Timothy Pontius told him: “I put aside the remaining charges of which in their merciful verdicts the jury has acquitted you.”

But he added: “Such an appalling act of violence by a powerfully-built man upon a helpless baby merely weeks old must be punished by an immediate prison sentence.”

Following Charlie’s death on October 23, it was found that Charlie had undergone a catalogue of previous injuries

They included a fractured skull, a fractured arm and a fractured rib from when he was two months old, and two more recent fractures – the result of pulling or twisting – to his left leg.

He had also suffered a fractured ankle shortly before his death. His twin sister had broken four ribs.

Jurors accepted Gibbs’s claims that he had not hurt either child – except on the occasion on October 6 when he broke Charlie’s left arm.

In relation to the the baby’s death, Gibbs told the court that two days before, Charlie had collapsed at home and he tried to resuscitate him.

Gibbs said Charlie had been jerking his head and arching his back leading up to the collapse, but denied assaulting him.

Charlie had fallen off a sofa on an earlier occasion when Gibbs had gone to look for a camera to take a picture of him, he said

Defence medical experts said there may have been an underlying medical condition for Charlie’s brain injury.

Gibbs, of Brook Vale, Erith, Kent, was close to tears as he was cleared of murder but found guilty of unlawfully causing grievous bodily harm to Charlie.

He was found not guilty of attacking the baby’s twin sister.

Sentencing Gibbs for breaking his son’s arm, the judge said: “You were well aware that your actions created a very real risk of injury to that helpless baby.”

He said the paramedic had been a “loving, proud and caring father” to the twins but had found it stressful to cope with a demanding job and the responsibilities of being a parent.

It was this which led him “deliberately and seriously to hurt a boy barely two months old”.

The type of force used produced “twisting and snapping, causing pain from the time the fracture was first sustained”.

It was the first time the pathologist who later examined him had ever encountered such a break in such a young child.

“Fractures of this sort are remarkably rare at this age given the flexibility and softness of infant bones,” the judge told Gibbs

“In a sudden and brief loss of temper, soon regretted, you lost patience and control, and hurt Charlie in a way that was unforgivably brutal and shocking.

“You left him in pain which must have been considerable for the next 24 hours before taking him to hospital.

“You hid what you had done from your wife, the hospital and the police, instead making up a false story.”

The judge told the jury that it had been a “very difficult, troubling and demanding case”.