June 2016

Dad jailed for shaking crying baby daughter so hard she was brain damaged


A FATHER has been jailed in Hull for losing his temper and shaking his 10-week-old daughter so hard she has been left with serious brain injuries.

Thomas Johnson, 25, assaulted the baby as she cried uncontrollably from colic in her Moses basket. He moaned of being in an unhappy relationship and being over-worked and tried to set about “saving his own skin” by refusing to explain to medics how she might have acquired brain haemorrhaging.

Mark McKone, prosecuting at Hull Crown Court, said the baby – who the Mail has chosen not to name – was 71 days old on September 11 last year when her father assaulted her.

Johnson was described by the mother as kind, caring and loving when their baby arrived. She said the baby had suffered from colic which led to her crying and made her difficult to settle.

Mr McKone told the court how Johnson had gone to work complaining he had a painful abscess under a tooth.

He returned to the family’s home in Church Street, Swinefleet, near Goole, and took his partner to work expecting her to finish at 10pm.

“He took his daughter to a pub leaving her in a car seat while he had 1-2 pints of beer before returning home,” said Mr McKone. “He texted his girlfriend saying she was fine several times. He telephoned her at 8pm, crying, saying she has gone rigid and floppy.

“A paramedic said he saw Johnson with his head in his hands and he was crying. The paramedic said she (the baby) was pale and not moving. She was given oxygen at the scene and taken to the accident and emergency unit.

“The baby was diagnosed as fitting and frothing at the mouth. She had extensive brain damage with a bilateral haemorrhage. The doctors considered the injuries were consistent with a sudden acceleration and deceleration of her brain within her skull.

“Johnson said he found her stiff and having a fit in her Moses basket. He denied hitting or shaking her.”

Johnson, who gave his address in court as Meredyke Road, Luddington, near Scunthorpe, pleaded guilty to one charge of causing grievous bodily harm. He denied a separate charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. In his basis of plea, he accepted he had taken hold of her Moses basket and shaken it vigorously.

He said he did not intent to cause serious injury but accepted his behaviour was reckless.

The court heard how following the baby’s injuries, Johnson went off the rails and drank heavily, picking up a conviction for drink driving in November last year and losing a job. He also twice breached a community punishment.

Gordon Stables, for Johnson, said he was plainly fearful of admitting what he had done and was ashamed for causing the injury to his “beautiful daughter.”

“It has had a devastating effect on the whole family,” said Mr Stables. “He has to live with it, as does the rest of the family. He told me, ‘It breaks my heart. It haunts and tortures me.’ He was described as kind, caring, and helpful father. He was a proud dad and would do anything he could. This was a momentary loss of control. Regret is not an adequate word to describe how he feels. If he could turn the clock back he would.

“The relationship with her mother is permanently over. It has no future.”

Nine months on, the girl is said to be behind her normal development milestones and has permanent injuries. She is unable to sit unaided, is not yet on solids or developed signs of correct eyesight. She has the abilities of a three-month-old child.

Jailing Johnson for two years, Judge David Tremberg told Johnson: “She was your first and only child. While the court has heard and read about the stress you were under, an unhappy domestic relationship, long working hours, fatigue and physical discomfort and a baby suffering colic, in my judgment, none of those matters come close to justifying what you did.

“You played a part in bringing her into this world. In doing so, you accept and are implicitly placed, in a position of trust – to ensure the welfare of that child. Society expects no less. She was one of the most vulnerable members of society. When she would not stop crying it was incumbent on you to control yourself. Instead you shook her. It seems she will be severely affected by the consequences of what you did for life.

“This case is an unmitigated tragedy. There are no winners. There only losers. You said you would do anything for your daughter. Unfortunately, your remorse took longer to display itself than your anger did. Unfortunately, having shaken her, you did not tell the doctors what had happened. While it may not have affected the final outcome, it would have demonstrated that you cared about her. In the weeks, hours, and days later you were to tell a lot of lies. In my judgment this is a bad case of its type standing at the very top of the sentencing band.

“I know custody will be a shock for you.”