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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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CHILD ABUSE/CRIMINAL LAW: R v H
Date:5 OCT 2011

(Court of Appeal; Elias LJ, Maddison and Burnett LJJ; 27 September 2011)

The 23 year old mother was convicted of cruelty to her child and sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment. The 1 year old child suffered burn and several bruises inflicted over considerable period. The child was taken into care. The mother pleaded guilty to cruelty, having left child with her boyfriend whom she knew was physically abusive. The mother had previous convictions for violence and dishonesty and she had a drink problem. The judge considered the case so serious that 3 years custody was the starting point. The mother appealed arguing the sentence was manifestly excessive.

Appeal allowed. The judge was correct that 3 years was starting point, as injuries, considered cumulatively, amounted to GBH and the mother must have known that the child was being physically abused but had done nothing. Immediate custodial sentence inevitable, however, the mother's age, immaturity and abusive relationship amounted to significant mitigating factors.  The mother was making significant progress in prison. A sentence of 18 months was imposed.