July 2015

Man jailed for blinding newborn baby in attack has sentence reduced

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A man jailed for an assault which left a five-week old baby with brain damage has had his sentence cut by appeal judges.

Stephen Sweeney, 27, was jailed for seven and a half years for shaking and squeezing the child at Hunters Quay caravan park in Dunoon, Argyll, on September 3, 2013.

The attack left the newborn, who cannot be named for legal reasons, blind and brain damaged.

Sweeney was convicted of the assault at the High Court in Glasgow earlier this year.

However, judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh cut Sweeney’s sentence on Wednesday to five years and three months.

The judges, Lord Brodie, Lord Bracadale and Lady Clark of Calton, ruled that people that have been convicted of similar crimes were handed shorter sentences.

They ruled that Sweeney, of Blantyre, Lanarkshire, should have his sentence cut to reflect the sentences that other people have been given.

Lord Brodie said: “We shall accordingly quash the sentence imposed by the judge and substitute a sentence of five years, three months.”

At earlier proceedings, the court heard how the boy awoke for his regular feed.

Sweeney decided to take the child from his cot while the mother stayed in the bedroom where she could see them both.

The mother fell asleep but awoke to hear Sweeney shouting for help. He had the child on his knee while claiming: “He’s not right.”

The mother noticed the boy appeared tired, pale and drowsy. His eyes were half shut and he was taking short breaths. His leg was also shaking and he appeared to be floppy.

They took the child to a local hospital where medics diagnosed a viral infection and allowed them to leave.

When the child refused to feed and looked to be in pain, he was taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Yorkhill, Glasgow.

Doctors found he had haemorrhages and bruising and signs of rib fractures. The child’s condition deteriorated and he eventually required resuscitation and ventilation.

Police later found enough evidence to prove Sweeney was responsible for injuring the child.

Sweeney pleaded guilty to assaulting the child to the danger of his life.

Passing sentence, judge John Morris QC described the case as a “truly tragic” one and said the boy’s life had been “devastated” by what happened.

He told Sweeney: “Be under no illusions, you pleaded guilty to a deliberate attack. You have accepted responsibility for severely damaging an innocent young child.

“No sentence can adequately affect what you did.”

Judge Morris also said that if Sweeney hadn’t pleaded guilty, he would have received a 10-year stretch in prison.

Lawyers acting for Sweeney told the appeal court that Judge Morris’s sentence was too long in comparison to other people who have been convicted of similar offences.

Lord Brodie added: “In all the circumstances we are persuaded that the starting point of 10 years selected by the sentencing judge in this case was excessive when compared with previous decisions of this court.”

March 2015

Man jailed for attack that left baby blind and with brain damage

Stephen Sweeney1

A man who admitted assaulting a five-week old baby boy, leaving him blind and brain damaged, has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

Stephen Sweeney, 27, is believed to have shaken and squeezed the infant at Hunters Quay caravan park in Dunoon, Argyll and Bute, on 3 September 2013.

When later asked by a relative of the child if he “had lost it”, Sweeney replied: “I don’t know, I was tired.”

The High Court in Glasgow heard the child has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Judge John Morris QC described the case as a “truly tragic” and said the boy’s life had been “devastated” by what happened.

He told Sweeney: “Be under no illusions, you pled guilty to a deliberate attack. You have accepted responsibility for severely damaging an innocent young child.

“No sentence can adequately reflect what you done.”

The judge said the jail term would have been 10 years, but for the guilty plea.

Several of Sweeney’s family and friends were in tears as he was led away to start his sentence.

After the hearing, the boy’s mother described the sentence as “just and fair”.

In a statement, describing her son’s ordeal, she added: “This is the kind of nightmare that you read about in the news and never believe that it could happen to your own child.”

At a previous hearing, the court heard that Sweeney, from Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, had joined the child and his mother on a short break at the caravan park.

In the early hours of 3 September 2013, the boy awoke for his regular feed.

Sweeney decided to take the child from his cot to deal with him while the mother stayed in the bedroom where she could see them both.

The mother fell asleep but awoke to hear Sweeney shouting for help. He had the child on his knee while claiming: “He’s not right.”

The mother noticed the boy appeared tired, pale and drowsy. His eyes were half shut and he was taking short breaths. His leg was also shaking and he appeared to be floppy.

They took the child to the local hospital in Dunoon where medics diagnosed a viral infection and allowed them to leave.

When the child refused to feed and looked to be in pain he was later taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill in Glasgow.

Doctors found he had haemorrhages and bruising and signs of rib fractures.

The child’s condition deteriorated and he eventually required resuscitation and ventilation.

The court heard the boy later improved and was able to move but medics suspected he had been the victim of “abusive head trauma”.

Later that month, hospital staff told Sweeney and the child’s mother his injuries were “non accidental”.

After the meeting, the mother confronted Sweeney who claimed he had “done something” while trying to “shush” the child.

He then blurted out: “Oh my god, I’ve done this. I’m responsible for this.”

The next day, Sweeney told his own mother that he had been bouncing the child on his knee and that the baby’s head had been moving backwards and forwards.

Another relative of the baby then asked Sweeney if he had “lost it”. Sweeney told her: “I don’t know – I was tired.”

He was detained by police on 20 September 2013 and claimed what happened was “an accident”.

Sweeney said he had held the boy tightly that morning as he moved him up and down as well as backwards and forwards.

Leading paediatrician Dr Helen Hammond was asked to provide expert opinion on the case.

She told the court the child’s injuries were consistent with the baby being shaken and gripped.

She added that the way the boy appeared at hospital could be explained by Sweeney’s claims he “bounced” the boy on his knee while not supporting his head.

But, the force would have to be “excessive” to cause the brain injuries.

The court heard the prognosis for the boy was “poor”. He was registered blind, had cerebral palsy and suffered from epilepsy.

Sweeney pleaded guilty to assaulting the child to the danger of his life.

March 2015

Man who left 5-wk old baby blind and with brain damage faces jail after admitting attack on tot

A MAN who left a five-week old baby blind and with catastrophic brain damage later moaned: “I was tired”.

The attack by Stephen Sweeney was so severe medics feared the boy wouldn’t survive.

Sweeney shook the baby and squeezed and shook his tiny body while changing him during a holiday with the child’s mum in September 2013.

A judge heard the boy was able to leave hospital but now suffers from cerebral palsy and is registered blind.

Sweeney faces jail after he admitted assaulting the baby to the danger of his life. The 27-year-old will learn his fate later this month.

The attack happened at Hunters Quay caravan park in Dunoon on September 3, when Sweeney, of Blantyre, Lanarkshire, picked up the baby who had woken early.

In the early hours of 3 September 2013, the boy awoke for his regular feed.

Sweeney decided to take the child from his cot to deal with him while the mother stayed in the bedroom where she could see them both

The mother fell asleep but was awoken to hear Sweeney shouting for help. he had the child on his knee while claiming: “He’s not right.”

The mother noticed the boy appeared tired, pale and drowsy. His eyes were half shut and he was taking short breaths. His leg was also shaking and he appeared to be floppy.

They took the child to the local hospital in Dunoon where medics diagnosed a viral infection and allowed them to leave.

When the child refused to feed and looked to be in pain he was later taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill in Glasgow.

Doctors found he had haemorrhages and bruising and signs of rib fractures.

The child’s condition deteriorated and he eventually required resuscitation and ventilation.

The baby’s condition worsened and he was moved to intensive care.

The court heard the boy later improved and was able to move but medics suspected he had been the victim of “abusive head trauma”.

Later that month, hospital staff told Sweeney and the child’s mother his injuries were “non accidental”.

After the meeting, the mother confronted Sweeney who claimed he had “done something” while trying to “shush” the child.

He then blurted out: “Oh my god, I’ve done this. I’m responsible for this.”

The next day, Sweeney told his own mother that he had been bouncing the child on his knee and that the baby’s head had been moving backwards and forwards.

Another relative of the baby then asked Sweeney if he had “lost it”. Sweeney told her: “I don’t know – I was tired.”

He was detained by police on 20 September 2013 and claimed what happened was “an accident”.

Sweeney said he had held the boy tightly that morning as he moved him up and down as well as backwards and forwards.

Leading paediatrician Dr Helen Hammond was asked to provide expert opinion on the case.

She told the court the child’s injuries were consistent with the baby being shaken and gripped.

She added the way the boy appeared at hospital could be explained by Sweeney’s claims he “bounced” the boy on his knee while not supporting his head.

But, the force would have to be “excessive” to cause the brain injuries.

The court heard the prognosis for the boy was “poor” and he was registered blind, had cerebral palsy and suffered from epilepsy.

Sweeney pleaded guilty to assaulting the child to the danger of his life.

Judge John Morris allowed Sweeney to remain on bail pending sentencing later this month.