A BABY just 19 days old suffered a fractured skull and injured mouth at the hands of his drunken father, a court heard.
The tiny infant’s agony came to light when his mum, who had entrusted his care to Shane Steele for just an hour, came home and spotted blood spots on his face and clothing. Steele had changed the baby’s clothing to disguise what he had done but the boy’s bleeding mouth meant that there were tell-tale signs on his fresh outfit and the horrified woman called an emergency ambulance.
At Wigan hospital a CT scan showed that the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had suffered a fracture to his skull, and his frenulum (the membrane beneath the tongue) had been torn by having a baby bottle forced into his mouth, said Graham Pickavance, prosecuting.
The 24-year-old, who pleaded guilty to child cruelty on the basis that the skull injury happened when he drunkenly stumbled into a doorway while holding the baby, was jailed for 18 months.
Jailing him, Judge David Harris QC said that Steele had initially pretended that the fracture occurred when the boy’s head struck his shoulder.
But a nationally-renowned paediatrician dismissed his claim and Steele eventually admitted he had drunkenly stumbled into a doorframe while holding him and the child’s head was compressed between the framework and his body.
“You attempted to squirm away from your responsibility,” the judge told Steele, who showed no emotion.
He added that the tear to the frenulum occurred after Steele lost his temper and forcibly thrust a bottle into the child’s mouth.
“It is abundantly clear one of the most significant factors which resulted in these two clearly separate injuries was the level of alcohol you had consumed,” he said.
“It is clear at the relevant time you had consumed a sufficient amount of alcohol to have a severely detrimentally impact on your judgement, on your temper, on your balance and on your capacity to respond in a child-centred way to the injuries the child had plainly suffered.”
The judge said that it was clear that Steele, now of Trent Road, Norley Hall, Wigan, had had a drink problem for a considerable time. He had been subjected to an alcohol treatment requirement under a community order for possessing a blade which had only just finished at the time of the offence.
Forcibly thrusting the bottle into the infant’s mouth must have caused him “significant pain and distress”.
“Again you took no action though a swelling developed on the area where the skull struck the frame,” said Judge Harris.
He not only failed to get medical help but tried to dissuade the mother from summoning the emergency services, he added. He made a four year restraining order banning Steele from contact with his son.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that fortunately the victim, who is now in foster care, has not suffered any significant disability as a result of his injuries.
Mr Pickavance said that the incident happened on the afternoon of March 24 last year in Ashton. Steele began drinking that morning and then went into the town centre with his girlfriend, their son and her friend and baby.
They were out drinking but about 2.30pm the baby began to cry and Steele took him home so his girlfriend could stay out longer with her friend. She returned home about 3.50pm and could see her son was in different clothes but had blood on his top and lip.
Steele claimed it happened when the baby’s face struck his collar bone. When she saw a swelling behind the child’s left ear she wanted to call a doctor but Steele tried to dissuade her but she called an ambulance for the crying infant.
The court heard that at the time of the incident Steele had felt under stress because of his relationship and had been suffering from depression. He had difficulties managing the baby and has a drink problem.