Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 13:22 UK

Man jailed for poison of baby son with painkillers

Teesside Crown Court
The baby was admitted to hospital numerous times, the court heard

A man has been jailed for a minimum of 10 years for trying to kill his weeks-old baby son by smothering him and poisoning him with painkillers.

Teesside Crown Court heard the father, not named for legal reasons, committed the attacks to stay at the child's mother's house in north-east England.

The 30-year-old, who was found guilty of charges including attempted murder, did not want to return to his own flat.

The judge warned him he was so dangerous he might never be released.

Judge Peter Fox QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, branded the defendant's behaviour as "despicable" and gave him an indeterminate jail term.

He said only an "act of mercy" prevented him from imposing a life sentence.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, told the court the defendant attacked the baby in autumn 2008 because he was due to return to his flat, which had no gas and electricity.

He said: "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.

'Blamed partner'

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

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.

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

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

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."

Other times, the baby suffered illnesses likely to be associated with "attempted suffocation", said Mr Dodds.

In addition to attempted murder, the child's father was convicted last month of unlawfully administering a poison so as to endanger life and child cruelty.

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