HMA v Paul Burgess

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Boyd sentenced Paul Burgess to seven years and six months in prison after he pled guilty to the culpable homicide of a 15 week old baby.

On sentencing Lord Boyd made the following statement in court:

"The death of any young child is always devastating but even more so when the death is caused by the criminal actions of another person. I have before me the victim impact statements from Zaidyn's mother and father and the extent of their grief and loss is clear from reading them. Nothing I can do can restore that position. There is the further hurt that stems from the deception that you thereafter maintained about Zaidyn's death. That is particularly so in the case of his mother who throughout this period remained your partner.

You were at the time of this incident in charge of Zaidyn. You yourself were apparently still suffering from the after effects of excess drinking and cannabis the night before. It is clear that you were not in a suitable frame of mind to exercise the appropriate degree of care required to change and feed an infant of 15 weeks. And as Ms Glancy acknowledged the fact that you failed to get medical assistance or disclose what happened are aggravating factors.

The first thing I have to do is to determine the level of culpability. Only you will know what exactly you did and how Zaidyn came to be injured. All I can do is to look at the medical evidence. I note that a Consultant Ophthalmologist who examined Zaidyn on his admission to Yorkhill said that the extent and degree of haemorrhaging was the worst he had seen since qualifying as a doctor. A neuroradiologist said that the injury was likely to require a repetitive back and forward movement of the unsupported infant head with force different from that used in normal handling such that an eye witness would recognise it as likely to injure.

The Crown accept that in all probability you suffered a loss of temper and shook the baby with sufficient force to cause fatal brain injuries. From the medical evidence you must have been well aware that what you were doing would injure the child. Having said that I accept that, being a loss of temper, you did not set out to injure the child and there were no other injuries on him. I accept too that it would not require a sustained assault over a period of time to produce such a catastrophic result.

I have listened carefully to what Ms Glancy has said on your behalf and I have also read the CJSWR and the report from Dr Marshall. You have so far led an unproductive and selfish life marked by alcohol and cannabis misuse. There are some signs in the reports of a new determination to make use of your time in prison enrolling in classes and engaging in physical exercise. That provides some hope that you may still be able to play a useful part in society.

You pled guilty by section 76 letter but I do not accept that you pled guilty at the earliest opportunity. The assault that led to Zaidyn's death occurred on 27th October 2012. From then on you maintained your innocence. I note that you first appeared on petition on 23rd June 2015. It was only in January 2016, when it became clear as a result of other proceedings that you must have been responsible for Zaidyn's death, that you intimated your guilty plea. In those circumstances I shall limit the discount that I might otherwise have allowed for an early plea.

Had you been convicted after trial I would have imposed a sentence of 9 years imprisonment. In view of the plea I shall discount that to one of 7 years 6 months in prison, backdated to 12th May 2016".