Father gets 10 years for attack

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The Independent Online
A judge yesterday jailed a father for 10 years for abuse of his baby son, and said a social services decision to place the boy with him "beggared belief". Judge Ian MacLean told Philip Scammell and Jill Mills, who had had care of the child, that his death was "a merciful release".

Scammell, 28, of Calmore, Hampshire, was given the maximum sentence for cruelty. Mills, 38, of Totton, who admitted causing grievous bodily harm and cruelty, was jailed for six years.

Southampton Crown Court was told that 21-month-old Ryan Crossett had both ankles broken, a fractured skull, and was covered in bite marks and burns. He had been held against a boiling radiator and had a key screwed into his neck. Although Ryan's death was caused by a respiratory illness, post-mortem examinations showed that he had suffered the most appalling cruelty and neglect.

Asking if social services were conducting an inquiry, the judge added: "I would like to know whether an unoccupied house, cold without heating, full of beer bottles ... is a suitable home for a child to be placed."

The court was told Ryan's body was discovered at Mills's home on 18 February. Nicholas Haggan, prosecuting, said Ryan's mother had been in a relationship with Scammell in 1993, but they had split up before his birth.

She was unable to cope with the child and Ryan was placed in care. "So it came about that social services of Hampshire County Council made arrangements for the child to be placed with his father, who lived in the area." Scammell asked Mills to look after Ryan at her home.

A spokesman for Hampshire Social Services said an independent review carried out at the request of Hampshire County Council Social Services "found no single agency or individual was to blame" but "identified a series of shortcomings in ... communications and procedures". She said the recommendations of an internal review were being considered.

Sentencing Scammell and Mills, the judge told them that it was the gravest case of its kind he had come across: "No one will ever know the truth about the way you brutalised that little boy. It was a merciful release when he died, because who knows what you would have thought of next."