Hospital nurse who attacked babies jailed

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The Independent Online
A children's nurse was jailed for five years yesterday for attacking two babies in his care.

Richard Coleman, 29, a nurse at Great Ormond Street children's hospital, struck a seven-week-old girl head-first against a wall while looking after her in a private home, leaving her with possible brain damage. He also broke the arm of a boy in the hospital, picking him up with a "pulling and twisting motion".

Judge Alan Hitching, passing sentence at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, said both attacks were connected to demanding shifts of up to 12 hours at the hospital.

"They have a background of general stress arising from long hours at work and particular stresses relating to your family. Another common theme is that you have a particular personality that reacts and responds in a particular way to situations of stress," he said. But the judge said that he did not feel Coleman, of Ilford, Essex, was a danger to the public.

Sir Anthony Tippet, chief executive of Great Ormond Street hospital, said there was nothing to give concern about Coleman's abilities during his training as a children's nurse.

He was working the traditional pattern of three or four weeks of day duty followed by a week of 11-hour night shifts, ending with a week off.

"Until we were notified of the case involving the child outside the hospital, there was no reason to believe that he was anything but a caring and competent nurse," Sir Anthony said. Coleman, a father of two, was convicted last year of causing grievous bodily harm to Dominic Judd, now two, from Billericay, Essex, and grievous bodily harm to the baby girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The court heard that Dominic, now two, from Billericay, Essex, was being treated at Great Ormond Street when he was attacked. Coleman used the child's arm as a lever to haul him into the air and snapped the limb in the process.

Michelle Judd, Dominic's mother, said she was worried about men looking after her son. "Male nurses don't get a look in now," she said. "It may sound harsh but I'd rather not trust men than have them hurt my child again."

Coleman claimed he had tripped over a toy while holding the boy and banged his arm against the cot, but evidence showed the injury could not have been caused in that way.

Seven months later he battered his second victim while caring for her at a private house. The girl was swung through the air against a wall and suffered two severe skull fractures, brain haemorrhaging and a broken ankle. She now faces possible life-long learning difficulties.

The court was told that a psychiatric report showed Coleman suffering from "very substantial developmental abnormalities" that were now reflected in his personality. Alastair MacDuff QC, for the defence, said his client had "simply snapped under pressure" and felt "disgusted" with himself.