5th Jul, 2022

Baby left blind, deaf and brain damaged by dad's shaking

Editorial Correspondent 8th May, 2018 Updated: 8th May, 2018

A young baby just 27 days old suffered catastrophic injuries which have left him blind, deaf, quadriplegic and brain-damaged when he was violently shaken by his own father.

And after going on the run and fleeing the country near the end of his trial at Warwick Crown Court, cowardly father Keith Ballard is now facing a long prison term – when he is caught.

He is believed to have fled to Poland with his new girlfriend, after ANPR cameras tracked his car travelling from Coventry to Dover, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Ballard (31) previously of Lamb Street, Coventry, had denied inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on his young son Jake and cruelty by failing to get him emergency medical aid.

But the jury, who were not told why he was not in the dock until after the trial had ended, returned unanimous guilty verdicts on both charges.

And as a result of the conviction, if Jake later dies as a result of his injuries, Ballard can be charged with his murder.

That would not have been the case if he had pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm without intent – which the prosecution would have accepted before the trial started.

In the dock with him during the trial was Jake’s mother Sharon Herbert, who faced only the charge of cruelty by neglecting him in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering.

And after a total of 14 hours and 16 minutes over the course of four days, the jury convicted Herbert (33) of William Malcolm House, Attoxhall Road, Coventry, by a majority of 10-2.

Sentencing of the two of them was adjourned for a report to be prepared on Herbert – and to give the police time to bring Ballard back once he is picked up on a European arrest warrant.

Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC said Jake was born in August 2015 and was ‘a normal healthy baby,’ with no sign of abnormality, after which routine screening showed him developing normally.

“At midnight on the 9th of September, while at home in the sole care of his father Keith Ballard, Jake collapsed into a state of encephalopathy, damage to the brain affecting the function of the brain.

“The colour had drained from his face, there was respiratory distress as he was struggling to breathe, and reduced consciousness. He could not be roused, his eyes were closed shut.

“Mr Ballard woke his partner Sharon Herbert, the child’s mother, who at the time was asleep in bed, and took Jake to her.

“She later said she knew immediately something was seriously wrong with Jake, whose condition she described as scary.

“There is consensus among medical experts that he would have been frighteningly unwell, and would have been frighteningly unwell at the point he sustained the injuries. Yet neither defendant called for an ambulance.”

Mr Hankin said that after a delay of at least 10 minutes, Ballard called 111, the NHS non-emergency helpline, but even then he deliberately concealed the fact that Jake had collapsed.

He merely described the 27-day-old baby as being ‘chesty and a bit stubborn,’ and having been ‘a bit floppy’ when he got up to feed him – and Mr Hankin said Herbert had been ‘a party to that misdescription.’

“Eventually an ambulance was dispatched, not because it was asked for, but by the call operator who came to realise Jake’s condition may have been more serious than was being described. But that was not until half an hour after Jake had collapsed.”

At hospital a CT scan showed widespread thin layers of bleeding over the surface of Jake’s brain and in the compartments of his brain, with early signs of brain swelling and damage caused by an inadequate supply of blood to the brain.

Another scan 12 hours later showed significant worsening of the brain damage, and ‘a battery of medical tests showed no underlying medical cause.’

“The prosecution case is that Jake’s collapse happened because he had sustained a very serious traumatic brain injury, and that it was caused by a shaking mechanism, by rotational accelerating and deceleration, with or without impact.”

And he said the injury had been intentionally cause by Ballard, who had moved in with Herbert when she was five months pregnant, deliberately shaking him.

Little Jake was transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital before later being moved back to University Hospital in Coventry.

A succession of examinations show the whole of his brain has been permanently damaged as a result being shaken by Ballard.

It has left him with severe quadriplegic cerebral palsy, he is blind and deaf, he cannot swallow, he has ‘severely impaired cognitive function, with little or no awareness of his external environment, and suffers from epilepsy.

“There is no chance of meaningful improvement,” added Mr Hankin.

After Ballard, who did not give evidence and fled on the day the jury had been due to begin considering their verdict, had been found guilty, his barrister Rosina Cottage QC said: “I have no application for any report. Clearly none is needed.

“He will be arrested, there is no doubt, and brought back in due course.”

After Ballard had failed to turn up at court, unknown to the jury, Judge Sally Hancox issued a warrant for his arrest.

Cathlyn Orchard, prosecuting with Mr Hankin, said it had been discovered Ballard had a new girlfriend, who is Polish, and had been living with her at her parents’ home in Tarquin Close, Willenhall, Coventry, since September.

The parents had no idea about the case, and thought he was going to work each day, said Miss Orchard, who added: “There had been discussion about them [Ballard and his girlfriend] going to Poland, and they have taken a one-way ticket.”

Adjourning the case, Judge Hancox told Herbert: “The jury found you wilfully neglected Jake in not seeking timely medical attention for him.

“This is an offence which can be punished by a sentence of imprisonment, but I am going to re-admit you to bail.”

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