Tuesday, 18 June 2013

R v Benjamin Curtis ~ Sentencing ~ Manslaughter (by shaking) of baby

Benjamin Curtis has been sentenced to serve 2 years imprisonment for the manslaughter of Ocean Elliott.  The brief sentencing remarks of Nicol J are available via the Judiciary website - (HERE).  The judge described Curtis as having learning disability and as having a limited ability to understand verbal information.

Curtis pleaded guilty to manslaughter at a late stage in the proceedings but he was allowed a full one-third discount on the basis that expert evidence was required to establish a causal link between Curtis shaking baby Ocean and her subsequent death.   The shaking occurred when Ocean was 14 weeks old but she lived - albeit with serious disability - until approximately age 2 years 9 months.

In 2006, Curtis had received a caution for
hitting Ocean’s step-brother on his bare bottom.  In relation to the injuries suffered by Ocean,  Curtis had already stood trial on a charge of intentionally causing her really serious injury but the outcome of that trial was that he was convicted of assault.  Nicol J made some allowance for the sentence imposed for that offence but the remarks do not state what the allowance was.  Also, the remarks do not tell us how the judge's initial sentence of 3 years was reached.  Nicol J said:

'Your counsel recognises that this offence is so serious that only a sentence of immediate imprisonment will be sufficient.  Taking all of this into account (including the sentence which was passed on you for the assault on Ocean) but assuming you had contested the present charge, my sentence would have been 3 years imprisonment. Because of your plea of guilty, the sentence will be one of 2 years imprisonment.'

Unfortunately, there is no mention in the judge's remarks of any appeal court cases dealing with sentencing for this form of manslaughter - e.g. Attorney-General's Reference 125/2010 [2011] EWCA Crim 640 where a sentence of three and half years on Graeme Draper was increased to 5 years.  Draper pleaded guilty of the manslaughter of a 4 month old baby.

Earlier this year, Benjamin Roach was sentenced to 7 years for the manslaughter of 1 month old baby Roxie Hopkins-Roach.  In January 2013, Stephen Coukham (age 18) was sentenced to three and a half years for the manslaughter of 3 month old baby Tyrone.

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