Woman who shook baby boy to death jailed

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The Independent Online

A childminder who lost her temper and shook a baby to death was jailed yesterday for three years and nine months.

Linda Bayfield stared at the floor while a judge at the Old Bailey told her she had betrayed the trust placed in her by Joshua Osborne's parents.

Joshua, aged eight months, and his five-year-old sister, Katrina, were being looked after by Bayfield at her home in Croydon, south London, in July 2000. He suffered severe brain damage after being shaken by Bayfield, 54. At her trial last month she claimed that she was trying to revive the baby after he stopped breathing. But the jury found her guilty of manslaughter.

Judge Peter Beaumont told her: "Joshua was a totally defenceless eight-month-old baby left in your care as a registered childminder by his parents. You were earning your living by the money they paid you to look after their child. Their trust in you was total and you betrayed it."

He said he took into account that the fatal shaking might only have been momentary. "But the plain fact is that the shaking you gave him in temper, having lost control, was sufficiently violent to cause him immediate and irrecoverable injury. My sentence must mark that fact," said the judge.

Joshua's mother, Libby, 38, a computer expert, wept silently during the proceedings. Afterwards, in a joint statement with her husband, Ken, a 44-year-old archivist, the couple expressed their dismay at the length of the jail term. "Although we believe that justice has been done, we are very disappointed at how short the sentence is. The death of our precious baby son devastated our lives ... But we hope lessons will be learnt and actions will be taken so that another family will never have to suffer like we did."

After the trial last month, news emerged that Bayfield had been accused of slapping another child and had eight other complaints against her. A subsequent inquiry for the local authority, Croydon council, recommended that in future parents be told of complaints against childminders.

Bayfield had been a childminder for 25 years and was looking after six children at various times of the day.

The court was told Joshua, who was teething, did not appear to bond with Bayfield during the five weeks she looked after him.

Nicholas Loraine-Smith, for the prosecution, said Bayfield suffered from asthma, arthritis, chronic back pain and a skin allergy.

Joshua died six days after the shaking incident. Bayfield told police she had shaken him a couple of times because he was having difficulty breathing.

Bayfield had made a "heart-rending" 999 call for help. In the recording, which was played to the court, she told the operator: "He started to cry, then scream. He went floppy. He's like a rag doll." Mr Loraine-Smith said: "The Crown have no doubt that by this stage she deeply regretted what she had done."

Yesterday Bayfield's counsel, David Bate, QC, said: "She has not been able adequately to express to his parents her sorrow at his death before, now is the time to do so." He added: "For the rest of her days she will bear the knowledge she has caused the death of a young baby."