Published: 12:55, 19 February 2018
A mother and father whose cruelty to their baby resulted in him having both legs amputated have each been jailed for 10 years.
Tony Smith suffered several fractures that led to septicaemia and left him fighting for his life when just 41 days old.
A jury of seven women and five men took less than an hour on Friday to return unanimous verdicts on Jody Simpson and the father, also called Tony Smith.
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Jurors decided that one of the parents deliberately harmed the child at their Maidstone flat and caused "a high risk of disability".
The couple, now of Sydney Road, Whitstable, had denied causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child and cruelty to a person under 16, but were convicted.
Neither Smith nor Simpson showed any reaction to their sentence.
It was not revealed until the end of the trial that Tony had lost both legs as a result of the injuries inflicted on him.
Jurors were in tears on hearing a victim statement and seeing two photos of the boy, now aged three, as he is now on screens. Judge Philip Statman sounded choked as he spoke.
The jury broke into spontaneous applause after the judge praised Tony’s adoptive parents as "absolute stars".
The prosecutor said Tony was discharged from hospital on February 9, 2015 and then went to foster carers.
“He was in a pitiful state,” said prosecutor Heather Stangoe.
“He weighed just 9lb 7oz, including the weight of the plaster casts on his legs. He was in a lot of pain. He was on morphine for the first few months and very strong antibiotics.
“Very sadly, he was emotionally completely shutdown, glazed eyes and absolutely no expression on his face.
“Those injuries have had and continue to have a life-changing effect on Tony and his needs are exceptional.
"Such a sad little boy deserves a special family, and the other part of this case is that I can tell you is he does have a wonderful family.
“It is quite true he has just had the most wonderful impact on their life. He is a happy and delightful character in their family. They want you to know how really very happy he is.”
Judge Statman said: “The way in which Tony came to be treated by our health service is in my judgement utterly remarkable.
“I can’t remember – and sadly I do too many cases involving doctors coming to court – where the level of care has been higher than this one.
“I am tempted to say thank goodness for the NHS, because as you know, that poor baby was seconds away from death when taken to the doctor’s surgery.
“Every single member of the health service who has treated him deserves the utmost praise.”
The judge added: “It is utterly remarkable we have in our community those who foster children and those who look after them, particularly when they have disability and show the most wonderful compassionate and caring side of the community.
“Tony’s adoptive family are stars. They are absolute stars.”
Judge Statman added: “That is the first time I have ever heard applause from a jury.”
Speaking after the sentencing hearing, baby Tony's adoptive mother said: "The last two weeks have been quite harrowing even though we knew exactly what had happened to him.
"To actually listen to it and the medical evidence showing how these fractures were done was extremely hard.
"The first time I met Tony, he was shut down, withdrawn and totally glazed over but he had these beautiful big brown eyes and he melted me.
"I wasn’t going to leave that hospital without him. Those big brown eyes still get me now even when he is being very naughty.
"He is such a happy loving little boy that he just brightens up every day.
"Obviously one day he is going to want to know why he is in the state he is in and we will always be open and honest with him. He will always know his story."
Simpson stared at the pictures of Tony after the verdicts. Smith sat with his head bowed.
The maximum sentence they could have faced was 10 years imprisonment.
The baby was found to have the fractures in November 2014.
Miss Stangoe said the parents delayed taking the child to their doctor from their flat at Sunningdale Court in Square Hill Road, Maidstone, after he became ill.
They later told police they were delayed because they were waiting for a plumber to mend a broken boiler.
Simpson, then 21, phoned their GP on November 14 2014 and reported the baby had cold-like symptoms and was crying.
She was advised to give him Calpol and take him into the surgery when he was due for his six week check-up.
But when he was taken to the surgery four days later he was gravely ill, having developed swelling and shock.
Experts expressed surprise that the mother had not called for an ambulance, Miss Stangoe told Maidstone Crown Court.
The baby weighed 7lb 7oz at birth and was “healthy and thriving”.
When he was taken to the GP’s surgery at 41 days by Simpson he was gravely ill, said Miss Stangoe.
He looked grey, had froth at the side of his mouth and was grunting.
His eyes were closed and his lower limbs were hard and swollen.
The doctor suspected septicaemia. The child was taken to Pembury Hospital and then transferred to a specialist unit in London.
“He was in a parlous condition and required multi-organ support in intensive care,” said Miss Stangoe.
“On admission, he was drowsy and showed signs of respiratory distress.”
X-rays revealed fractures to both thighbones, both lower legs, the right lower leg and ankle, and fractures to the base of the left thumb and two bones in the big toe.
“A paediatrician and another doctor concluded that his injuries were not accidental,” said Miss Stangoe.
“It was thought highly likely he would die imminently from multiple organ failure, secondary to his injuries and septicaemia.
The child needed a prolonged course of treatment.
Smith, 46, said he and Simpson, 24, “thought the world of him” and would never harm him. He described Simpson as “the best mum you could ever think of”.
Simpson called Smith a brilliant dad who she could not fault. She was “quite certain”, she said, he never lost his temper with the baby. Asked how certain she replied: “99.9 per cent.”
But when giving evidence she revealed she had planned to leave Smith the day before gravely ill Tony was taken into hospital.
Asked why he wanted to leave him, she replied: “Because he was rough with Tony.”
She did, however, stay with Smith for another almost three years until they went into custody six months ago.
Simpson claimed she had twice seen Smith pick the baby up by the wrists so that his head was dangling back.
Miss Stangoe asked her: “Isn’t a mother’s principal job to keep her baby safe? You didn’t keep your baby safe, did you?”
Simpson replied: “No.”
The court heard social services were aware Smith previously had "a long standing difficulty with heroin". He was given a conditional discharge in December 2011 for possessing the drug.
"Baby Tony was particularly vulnerable. Who can a child of 41 days turn to other than those who brought him into the world and are meant to love him unconditionally" - Judge Philip Statman
He has 11 previous convictions for 21 offences mainly for dishonesty but in 2001 he was jailed for two months for assault causing actual bodily harm.
Since the latest offending Simpson had accumulated five convictions for shoplifting and one for attempted burglary.
The court also heard the couple had at one time lived in a tent in the Canterbury area.
Miss Stangoe said there had been a series of spiteful assaults on the baby, as well as the failure to get him prompt medical attention.
"We are where we started," she said. "We are unable to say who caused and who allowed. There are multiple incidents of serious cruelty."
Ben Irwin, for Smith, said Parliament had allowed a maximum sentence of 10 years "despite what others may feel".
"He has a long history of heroin addiction, not violent crime," said Mr Irwin.
Passing sentence, Judge Statman said he was not allowed to comment on the maximum sentence being 10 years, but added: “What I can say is this; I cannot envisage a worse case than the one I have had to deal with over the course of the last two weeks.
“Baby Tony was particularly vulnerable. Who can a child of 41 days turn to other than those who brought him into the world and are meant to love him unconditionally? That didn’t happen in this particular case.
“I want to make it absolutely clear, I cannot be sure which of you caused either or any of the injuries. I cannot be sure in relation to the precise role each of you has played.
“While neither of you can be sentenced as the perpetrator, both of you are to be sentenced for allowing the perpetrator to act as he or she did.”
The jury had heard about the catalogue of non-accidental injuries inflicted on the baby.
“He sustained at the hands of one or the other of you injuries which will, and have caused, his life to change dramatically – eight fractures to the bones in his tiny body, stretched through all parts of his body from the hand to the ankle.”
Medical experts said a baby’s bones had a degree of elasticity and the force to break Tony’s bones would have been “vigorous”.
The ankle injury would have been caused by sudden twisting or yanking, using considerable force.
“Baby Tony would have been in considerable pain following the infliction of those injuries upon him,” said the judge.
“The fracture and dislocation of the ankle would have manifested itself in both swelling and each time pressure came to bear on that ankle, such as potentially the changing of a baby grow, Tony would have been in considerable discomfort and would have cried or whimpered.”
One expert said there could have been as many as eight separate forces and eight separate fractures, which most likely occurred over a 10-day period. Social services had visited shortly before.
Judge Statman said in view of the fractures it was not surprising that infections then invaded his body.
“When eventually, at about midday, you Jody Simpson took your baby to the GP it is not an exaggeration to say he was almost at the door of death,” he said.
Judge Statman said Smith's behaviour had mirrored what happened to him as a child, but Mr Irwin said Smith would not go into it.
"Isn't a mother's principal job to keep her baby safe? You didn't keep your baby safe, did you?" - Prosecutor Heather Stangoe, to Simpson
"He will spend the rest of his life staring at the consequences of his conduct," said Mr Irwin.
"He is convicted in respect of a grave offence in respect of his son. He has always said when his baby came into the world he had genuine hopes and dreams of how his life would be."
Mr Irwin added that Smith had been repeatedly targeted by others during the trial.
John Barker, for Simpson, said it was likely that she saved Tony's life when she did take him to the doctor.
But Judge Statman said there was a delay of two or three hours in seeking medical attention.
“In my judgement, and I don’t say this by means of wishing to appear cruel, you put your relationship with Tony senior before the care of your child," he said.
“I understand whatever the sentence of this court that will be impregnated in you for the rest of your life. You knew the difference between right and wrong.
“You had family you could have gone to if you were worried about any rough treatment by Mr Smith of the baby.
"You could have complained to health visitors and professionals who attended you post-birth.
“Both of you were knowing and fully aware of your responsibilities.”
When it came to taking Tony to the doctor, Smith took the decision to wait in for a plumber, rather than accompanying Simpson to hospital.
After the sentencing, Detective Inspector Ian Wadey said: "This was a distressing case where injury and ill-health has been caused to a baby by those who should have been committed to his care and well-being, Jody Simpson and Tony Smith.
"This child will have to live with the effects for the rest of his life and the parents can spend time reflecting on their actions and neglect during their time in prison.
"I would like to thank the medical staff and experts who cared for the baby when he was admitted to hospital and who subsequently assisted us with this investigation."
An NSPCC spokesman added: "This is a shocking and desperately sad case.
“Simpson and Smith should have loved, protected, and kept their son safe from harm. Instead, they inflicted life-changing injuries on a defenceless baby and it is right that they are now behind bars as a consequence of their actions.
"Babies and young children are completely dependent on those who care for them and we all have a duty to look out for their welfare.
"Anyone concerned about a child is urged to contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, while young people can call Childline on 0800 1111."