June 2018

Father found guilty of violently shaking baby son goes on the run with new girlfriend

A father who violently shook his 27-day-old baby, causing catastrophic injuries which left him blind, deaf, quadriplegic and brain-damaged, has gone on the run.

Keith Ballard fled to Poland with a new girlfriend during his trial at Warwick Crown Court.

He was jailed for 18 years in his absence for inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on his young son Jake, and cruelty by failing to get him emergency medical aid.

His then-partner, baby Jake’s mother Sharon Herbert was convicted of cruelty by neglecting him in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering by failing to get prompt treatment for him.

When Ballard (31) previously of Lamb Street, Coventry, failed to turn up, Judge Sally Hancox, issued a warrant for his arrest.

She was told a European arrest warrant would be applied for once he was convicted – but in fact, that application was not finalised until more than a week after the guilty verdicts

In the meantime, it emerged at Birmingham Crown Court, where Judge Hancox is now sitting, that the police had contacted Ballard’s new partner to tell her of the situation – and when she confronted him, he had got into his car and drove off.

Concluding that there was ‘no prospect that he will be found soon,’ Judge Hancox jailed him in his absence for 16 years for causing Jake’s injuries, with a consecutive two-year term for failing to get prompt medical attention.

She ordered that when he is finally caught, he should be brought before her to be told of the sentence, and to be sentenced for absconding.

Sharon Herbert (33) (pictured) of William Malcolm House, Attoxhall Road, Coventry, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years, with a 30-day rehabilitation activity.

Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC had said Jake, born in August 2015, was ‘a normal healthy baby,’ with no sign of abnormality, after which routine screening showed him developing normally.

“At midnight on the 9th of September, while at home in the sole care of his father Keith Ballard, Jake collapsed into a state of encephalopathy, damage to the brain affecting the function of the brain.

“Mr Ballard woke his partner Sharon Herbert, the child’s mother, who at the time was asleep in bed, and took Jake to her.

“She later said she knew immediately something was seriously wrong with Jake, whose condition she described as scary.

“There is consensus among medical experts that he would have been frighteningly unwell, and would have been frighteningly unwell at the point he sustained the injuries. Yet neither defendant called for an ambulance.”

Mr Hankin said that after a delay of at least 10 minutes, Ballard called 111, the NHS non-emergency helpline, but even then he deliberately concealed the fact that Jake had collapsed.

He merely described the 27-day-old baby as being ‘a bit floppy’ when he got up to feed him – and Mr Hankin said Herbert had been ‘a party to that misdescription.’

“Eventually an ambulance was dispatched, not because it was asked for, but by the call operator who came to realise Jake’s condition may have been more serious than was being described. But that was not until half an hour after Jake had collapsed.”

A hospital CT scan showed widespread layers of bleeding over the surface of Jake’s brain and in the compartments of his brain, with early signs of brain swelling and damage caused by an inadequate supply of blood to the brain.

“The prosecution case is that Jake’s collapse happened because he had sustained a very serious traumatic brain injury, and that it was caused by a shaking mechanism, by rotational accelerating and deceleration, with or without impact.”

And he said the injury had been intentionally cause by Ballard, who had moved in with Herbert when she was five months pregnant, deliberately shaking him.

Little Jake was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital before later being moved back to University Hospital in Coventry.

A succession of examinations show the whole of his brain has been permanently damaged as a result being shaken by Ballard.

It has left him with severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy, he is blind and deaf, he cannot swallow, he has ‘severely impaired cognitive function, with little or no awareness of his external environment, and suffers from epilepsy.

“There is no chance of meaningful improvement,” added Mr Hankin.

After Ballard, who fled on the day the jury had been due to begin considering its verdicts, had been found guilty, Cathlyn Orchard, prosecuting with Mr Hankin, said it had been discovered Ballard had a new girlfriend, who was Polish.

He had been living with her at her parents’ home in Tarquin Close, Willenhall, Coventry, since September.

The parents had no idea about the case, and thought he was going to work each day, said Miss Orchard, who added: “There had been discussion about them [Ballard and his girlfriend] going to Poland, and they have taken a one-way ticket.”

At the resumed hearing, Mr Hankin told the judge that the bench warrant for Ballard was still outstanding.

He said Ballard had travelled to Poland with his new girlfriend, who knew nothing of the case, to stay with some of her relatives.

After an officer contacted her to explain the situation, after the judge had issued a bench warrant but before the European arrest warrant had been ordered, she confronted him – and she has said that he ‘didn’t say much, and then drove off.’