A father has been convicted and sentenced for Manslaughter of his 8-week-old son. Jonas Hankin QC led the prosecution team, having been instructed at an early stage of proceedings to advise on expert evidence. The offender initially denied causing the baby harm, claiming that he had collapsed while feeding. The offender later suggested that he might have caused the baby’s traumatic injuries when attempting to resuscitate him following a spontaneous collapse. Mr Hankin QC commissioned experts in paediatric neuroradiology, paediatric neurosurgery, paediatric haematology and paediatric and perinatal pathology to comment on the likely cause of the baby’s collapse and subsequent death. The offender pleaded guilty on the day before the trial was due to begin, following service of the prosecution opening note. 

The offender’s 8-week-old baby was left alone in the offender’s care for a brief period during the afternoon of 27 June 2019, while the baby’s mother went out to run an errand. The baby was unsettled and did not feed properly, probably in response to vaccinations he had received that morning. The prosecution case was that, unable to settle him, the offender became frustrated with the baby and assaulted him. The baby was taken to Sheffield Children’s Hospital by ambulance. Medical investigations revealed that he had suffered a devastating brain injury. The treating clinicians did all they could, but life support was switched off 2 days later. The baby died on 29 June 2019, having survived for 52 hours.  The expert medical evidence indicated that the mechanism of assault involved shaking plus impact onto a semi-yielding surface.

The sentencing judge, the Hon. Mr Justice Andrew Baker, found the offender’s level of culpability to have been ‘high’ and sentenced him to 9 years imprisonment.