Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Mother jailed for crushing baby

Claire Biggs and Paul Husband
Claire Biggs is guilty of assault and Paul Husband of neglect

A mother has been jailed for eight years for inflicting a "horrific" series of injuries on her two-month-old son, who died hours later.

Claire Biggs, 27, from Newham, east London, repeatedly crushed her son Rhys, fracturing 17 of his ribs.

Biggs was found guilty of assault and her partner Paul Husband, 33, was found guilty of neglect.

Inner London Crown Court heard that Biggs previously had a daughter who was taken into care in 2001.

'Extreme pain'

Because the cause of Rhys's death in May 2006 could not be established, the pair could only be charged with child cruelty.

Biggs, a former crack addict, had denied the charges and claimed her boyfriend was "a murderer".

Husband, previously convicted of a sexual offence involving a child in Scotland, also denied the charges and is due to be sentenced at a later date.

In addition to having his chest repeatedly crushed, the infant also suffered a broken wrist and shoulder, injuries that one medical expert told the court would have left the baby in "extreme pain".

As Biggs sobbed in court, Judge Lindsay Burn, sentencing, said the jail term must reflect society's revulsion at her crimes.

"To cover up for the serious injuries you knew you had inflicted upon your baby, you deliberately decided that he would not have medical help to relieve his considerable pain and suffering."

As Biggs was dragged struggling to the cells by two dock officers, she screamed: "I didn't hurt my son...I didn't kill him. Ask him why he killed him."

'Agony'

The case has several parallels with the shocking abuse suffered by Baby P, as the attacks went unnoticed by health workers despite the mother's history.

Against a backdrop of missed opportunities by health agencies and a breakdown in information sharing, she was able to repeatedly crush the helpless child's chest, fracturing 17 ribs.

During his short life Rhys came under the care of two London councils, first Newham, where he died, and Camden where his mother had spent time in a refuge.

Apart from the mistakes made by the authorities, Biggs dodged a number of pre-arranged appointments.

When one did finally take place, a health visitor described Rhys as "active and alert", while a senior paediatric physiotherapist who checked his club foot noted no "abnormal marks".

'Evade justice'

Speaking after the sentencing, Kim Bromley-Derry, executive director for children and young people at Newham Council expressed the sympathies of the agencies involved and said changes from a subsequent case review had already been implemented.

"We have fully implemented the findings of the review, but we continue to keep a close eye on things to see if there is more we can do to improve," he added.

In a statement, the NSPCC, said the case once again highlighted "a loophole" in the law that allowed people who hurt children to "evade justice".

NSPCC lawyer Barbara Esam said: "The law needs to be addressed to cover cases where a carer has inflicted serious injuries on a child - where the child does not die or where it cannot be proved that the child died from the injuries inflicted."



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