A Northamptonshire mother, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, after her baby son died of head injuries, has escaped jail.
Eloise Burton-Cope, aged 33, of Walton End, Wavedon Gate, Milton Keynes, was sentenced to two years imprisonment which was suspended for two years. In addition, she was ordered by the judge to attend clinical appointments as recommended by her medical advisors.
Her son, Leon Cope, who was just four months old, died after she shook him so severely that he suffered injuries ‘so severe, likely to be unsurvivable , according to the doctor.
On Saturday, 29 March 2014, Leon was admitted to Milton Keynes Hospital, after he sustained head injuries while alone at home with his mum in Deanshanger, Northamptonshire.
The court heard that when Leon was admitted to hospital ‘he was cold and unresponsive…his body was floppy’.
Later that day, he was transferred to John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. Examinations revealed he had a brain injury and skull fracture. Doctors concluded from the injuries that he had likely suffered ‘a shaking mechanism with impact’. On Mothers Day 30 March 2014, his life support machine was switched off, and he sadly died the following day.
According to the pathologist the force used was ‘at least outside the range of normal force used in the handling of a child’.
Prosecution barrister Sally Howes QC, told the court that an aggravating factor in the case was that Burton-Cope had offered no explanation as to the injuries or that she had shaken him, until she was arrested by the police.
Burton-Cope, who was originally charged with murder, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of lack of intent. She had suffered from severe post-natal depression following the birth of Leon. The defence barrister, Jane Humphries QC, informed the court that according to psychiatric reports, Burton-Cope was ‘a vulnerable person’. She had suffered a psychotic episode immediately following the birth of Leon and had taken anti-depressants.
Sentencing Burton-Cope, the judge – Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, said: “This is an exceptionally sad and tragic case. You shook him and caused him serious injuries as a result of which he subsequently died.”
He added: “I am satisfied that your residual culpability in this case is very low. I am satisfied that there would be no public interest in imposing a custodial sentence ……..and could result in a deterioration in your mental condition.
“In my judgement this is a paradigm case of leniency.”
Detective Inspector Mark Brayfield, who led the investigation, said: “We accept the decision of the court. This investigation was about getting justice for baby Leon, whose life was tragically and senselessly taken away. Every child should be protected, especially in their own homes. This was not the case for Leon.
“I would like to thank the investigation team, many of whom have children of their own. This has proven to be a difficult and complex investigation for them.”