May 2008

Baby died after being shaken by dad

A FIVE-year-old girl died of her injuries more than four years after being violently shaken by her father, an inquest heard.

Coroner Anne Hind recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on Sophie Smith, of Breck Road in Blackpool, who died in July 2004.

Sophie was born prematurely but lived a relatively normal life until she was shaken by her 18-year-old father at four months old.

She developed cerebral palsy as a result of the attack and an inquest heard she was not expected to live long when she was fostered by the Smith family in 2002.

The youngster who was described as “feisty and a real fighter” by Philip and Samantha Smith who later adopted her, defied all odds and went on to live until the age of five.

Her birth father Omar Hayes admitted causing grievous bodily harm in January 2000 and was sentenced to 18 months in youth custody.

Mrs Hind explained that the inquest was taking place four years after her death to formally “tie up the case after a very, very lengthy police investigation.”

The cause of death was recorded as broncho pneumonia brought on by chronic aspiration of her gastric contents which is consistent with head injury.

Mrs Hind said: “The two coroners who examined Sophie’s body were unequivocal in their conviction that the injury that caused her death was the shaking she had suffered five years earlier.”

Mrs Hind explained how the case had been complicated by a change in the law, removing a provision under which a victim had to die within a year and a day of receiving injuries in a crime for the person responsible to be tried for manslaughter.

Hayes had completed his sentence by the time of Sophie’s death but given the change in the law, the case was re-opened by the Crown Prosecution Service.

As the length of time had been so significant however, the CPS consulted the Attorney General who decided it was not in the public’s interest to bring a new prosecution. Their assessment concluded that an 18 month sentence was comparable with what Hayes might have received if found guilty of manslaughter.

Mrs Hind paid tribute to adoptive parents Philip and Samantha Smith for the love and care they had shown Sophie throughout her short life, she said: “I can’t tell you how much I admire you for the quiet heroism you show in bringing hope and happiness to the children you foster. “Sophie had the worst possible start in life but you made sure she had the best possible end.”