A father who almost killed his 12-week-old baby daughter has avoided an immediate prison sentence for inflicting grievous bodily harm.
The defenceless youngster, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, suffered brain haemorrhaging and seizures after being shaken by her father during an incident at their Calderdale home in January 2011.
But Bradford Crown Court today (MON) that after suffering “a momentary loss of control” the father then contacted the emergency services and doctors were able to save his daughter’s life.
During a subsequent police inquiry the father, now aged 26, initially blamed one of the other youngster’s in the family for causing the injury, but in November last year he finally admitted what he had done.
The man, who now lives in the Midlands, pleaded guilty to a charge of inflicting grievous bodily harm, and today a judge suspended his 18-month prison sentence for two years.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said the man would also be subject to supervision for two years and would have to undertake 270 hours of unpaid work for the community.
Prosecutor Ian Brook said the defendant had been described as very good step-dad to the other children in the family and his then partner said he had never lost his temper before.
In January 2011 the distressed man told his partner over the phone that he was on his way to hospital because their daughter had turned blue.
Although the youngster has suffered from delayed development and problems with her vision and mobility since the incident Mr Brook confirmed that she was making progress in her recovery.
The father’s barrister James Bourne-Arton said his client only had contact with his daughter once every six months, but he was anxious to play some part in her life.
“He lost control,” conceded Mr Bourne-Arton.
“While initially attempting to calm her he then shook her in a way he now accepts any reasonable person would realise was inappropriate and likely to cause injury.”
Mr Bourne-Arton said it had been a completely unique set of circumstances and had amounted to a momentary loss of control by his client.
Judge Durham Hall accepted that the defendant was a man of exemplary good character who was held in high regard by those who knew him.
The judge said what came through the various references was the simple disbelief that the defendant would lose, even momentarily, his usual calm behaviour.
“You clearly for some reason of irritation or momentary loss of temper shook her,” the judge added.
“The shaking need not have been excessive in many ways or even pronounced. All of us must learn and know, if not already known, that a very tiny baby is susceptible to massive injury because of course it cannot defend itself.
“It has no muscles or strength to resist. As an organism it is vulnerable in the extreme. The brain of a vulnerable infant is also highly susceptible and the smallest amount of bleeding, and in this case noticeable bleeding, can cause immeidate life-threatening injury and that is what happened.”
The judge described the man’s behaviour as a wholly uncharacteristic breach and said he had decided after anxious consideration to suspend his jail term.