September 2016

Grandma found guilty of five counts of cruelty to children


A grandmother was warned to expect jail after a jury found her guilty of cruelty to five children.

Juanila Smikle, 55, was convicted of five counts of cruelty after a trial which began at Nottingham Crown Court more than a fortnight ago.

Judge Gregory Dickinson QC told her that she would be sentenced on October 4 after he has considered all aspects of the case.

After retiring to discuss the case for 15 hours, the last of the verdicts were delivered by the jury of seven women and five men.

On Thursday, they unanimously found Smikle guilty of cruelty to a person under the age of 16. And on Friday, they returned unanimous guilty verdicts on three more charges. They found her guilty of the fifth by a majority of 11 to 1.

Smikle, of Easegill Court, Top Valley, sat silently while the jury forewoman gave their verdicts to the court clerk.

The judge told her: “A prison sentence is inevitable. It is regrettable I can’t do that today.

“I am sorry because from everybody’s perspective, it needs to be brought to a conclusion. It is a matter of the length of that inevitable sentence.” Smikle replied: “OK.”

During the trial, the jury heard that an investigation began following the death of seven-year-old Shanay Walker, who spent some time in Smikle’s care. The youngster died from a brain haemorrhage in July 2014.

Richard Pratt QC, prosecuting, told the jury there was no suggestion that Smikle was to blame for the death. But he said inquiries showed that Smikle “wilfully assaulted and ill-treated” Shanay for two years before her death.

Shanay was ordered to face a wall and was deprived of fun. She got into trouble for trying to steal water, apples and food, said Mr Pratt.

He emphasised: “We do not allege, and never have alleged, that the defendant was responsible for causing her death. It is fair that I repeat that the prosecution do not hold this defendant responsible for her death and never have.”

But he said the death prompted an inquiry which discovered that other children had been treated cruelly by Smikle.

The judge told the jury that it was the second time the case had been put before a jury. Smikle had been found guilty but a retrial was ordered because of legal problems.

He told the jury: “It is right you have considered this afresh. I am and often say to juries that I am a huge fan of the jury system.

“Important decisions like this should be made by members of the local community and not by judges. It is a very important public duty you have performed and I am extremely grateful.

“You go with my genuine thanks, I appreciate your patience and hard work.”