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Father jailed for trying to kill baby son

A father was jailed today for 10 years for trying to kill his weeks-old baby by smothering him and poisoning him with powerful painkillers.

But a judge warned the 30-year-old - who has a warped fixation with hospitals - he was so dangerous it was unlikely he would ever be released.

The father carried out the attacks in order to be able to stay longer at the house of the boy's mother, Teesside Crown Court heard.

He did not want to return to his own dingy flat nearby, which had no gas and electricity.

The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denied he had tried to kill the baby and instead blamed his partner.

He was convicted by a jury last month of unlawfully administering a poison - the adult painkiller codeine - so as to endanger life, child cruelty and attempted murder.

The three charges relate to autumn 2008 when the North East-born baby was only weeks old, jurors were told.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, told the defendant: "You knew full well that after seven days you were having to go back to your flat, so you needed something to keep you at the house.

"To deflect attention away from the fact it is time to go home you poisoned the child. You poisoned (the baby) with codeine."

The defendant even tried to blame his partner for giving his son the drugs overdose.

He told police: "The only explanation I can give is that (the baby's mother) gave it somehow but I do not know how or when."

During the first two months of the baby's life he was admitted to four different hospitals because of episodes of apparent illness which baffled doctors.

However, they became suspicious about the pattern of his admissions and the police and social services became involved.

In the majority of the times the child fell ill - becoming limp, pale and unresponsive - he had been in the sole care of his father, the prosecution alleged.

The father remained calm and unemotional when his son was receiving emergency care, which alerted hospital staff.

One episode of illness was so bad he would have died but for the hospital treatment he received, Mr Dodds said.

Afterwards, the painkiller Tramadol was found in a sample of the baby's blood. Previous tests had found codeine in his system.

Other times the boy suddenly deteriorated, then rapidly improved following treatment.

Mr Dodds said: "(They were) more likely to be associated with 'imposed upper airway obstruction', effectively attempted suffocation, whether by someone placing a hand over the child's mouth and nose or using an object such as a pillow."

Sentencing had been adjourned for the preparation of a psychiatric report but the court heard today that the defendant was not mentally ill.

Eric Elliott QC, defending, offered no mitigation on behalf of his client but added: "It is extremely fortunate that (the baby) has not only recovered fully but (is) also seemingly now thriving and we should all be thankful for that."

A packed public gallery, including the baby's mother, medical staff who treated him and some trial jurors, listened as Judge Peter Fox QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, passed sentenced.

He branded the defendant's behaviour as "despicable" and said only an "act of mercy" prevented him from imposing a life sentence.

"This tiny child was at his most vulnerable and you were in a special position of trust," the judge told the defendant.

"You subjected your son to repeated suffering and in the years to come (will face) particular great distress in considering his father and what you did and tried to do in extinguishing his life.

"So unusual are the circumstances that I can only conclude that you pose a great danger to anyone to whom you have some bizarre fixation in the context of their health, child or otherwise.

"I have considered most carefully whether your sentence should be of life imprisonment but, as an act of mercy only, I draw back from that.

"But I do not think at the present time there is a possibility of you ever being released."