5th Dec, 2016

Brutal bully who broke 32 bones of girlfriend's baby gets 24 years

Coventry Editorial 1st Dec, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A BRUTAL bully carried out a ‘shocking campaign of violence’ which left his girlfriend’s six-month-old son with 32 broken bones has been jailed for 19 years.

But because the term imposed on violent James Laidlaw is part of an ‘extended sentence,’ he will have to serve at least two-thirds of it, rather than the normal half.

The Warwick Crown Court judge ordered he should be on licence for an additional five years – taking his total effective sentence to 24 years.

Laidlaw (22) of Wexford Road, Wood End, Coventry, who refused to attend court, had been found guilty following a trial of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.

His girlfriend, the baby’s mother Tiffany Hilton (27) of Windmill Road, Longford, Coventry, was jailed for three years after she had been found guilty of allowing the baby to suffer serious harm by failing to protect him.

Both were also convicted of a further charge of cruelty to a child by assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting or exposing him to unnecessary suffering between February and May last year and failing to get treatment for him, for which they were given concurrent sentences.

Prosecutor Andrew Wallace said that in May last year the baby, just two days short of six months old, was referred to University Hospital Coventry with suspected bronchiolitis after Hilton had taken him to a walk-in medical centre.

X-rays revealed he had suffered numerous fractures, with eight different sites of injury from his foot to his arms, and including numerous fractures to his ribs – and some of the injuries were three months old.

Mr Wallace said it was “a campaign of violence.”

The child also had ‘wedging’ of one of his vertebrae, resulting from compression of the spine, which a doctor said was the equivalent of being dropped from a first-floor window, but was likely to have been caused by him being thrown across a room.

A nurse said that while he was in hospital the baby went ‘wide-eyed with fear’ whenever there was a loud noise or someone approached him.

At the resumed hearing Simon Hunka, for Hilton, said she is an “extremely vulnerable individual.  She has low self-esteem and attracts men of violence, and is attracted to them.  She is a loving mother in some respects, but an utterly incapable mother in others.”

He said Hilton had already been punished by having her three children taken from her, and she will not be allowed to see them again until they are adults if they then want to contact her.

Because of hostility towards her in the community, she has lost her job ‘and effectively been run out of Coventry.’

Elizabeth Power, for Laidlaw, who had a number of convictions for violence, said he had spent his childhood in care and had ‘raged against the system,’ with most of his offences being against the police or care assistants.

Jailing the couple, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said: “The breaks to the bones were caused by Mr Laidlaw, but it was Miss Hilton who brought Mr Laidlaw into the house and left him in charge of her son when she must have known he was at risk.

“He was only a few months old when he was subjected to this shocking campaign of violence.”

She said from what she had seen of Laidlaw in court, he was ‘prone to controlling and bullying behaviour.’

Of sentence guidelines of up to 16 years for Laidlaw, she commented: “This is a case which, it seems to me, must go beyond the guidelines.

“I do consider there is a significant risk of serious harm to anyone who is in a relationship with him and to any children who are in his care.”

And she told Hilton: “Even when you must have realised he was physically harming not only you but one of them, you allowed him to stay and covered up for him by not telling Social Services of his presence.

“This was serious long-term neglect and a failure to protect your son from serious cruelty.

“A message has to go out that women who look after children are responsible, and if they remain passive in the face of such violent and persistent abuse of their children, they must go to prison.”