HMA v Syeda Begum

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 9 April, 2019, Lord Uist sentenced Syeda Begum to three years’ imprisonment after the offender was convicted of assaulting a baby to the danger of her life.

On sentencing, Lord Uist made the following statement in court: 

You were convicted by the jury at Aberdeen High Court of having assaulted an eight month old baby girl whom you were childminding at your home in Aberdeen on 1 January 2017 by shaking her by the body to her severe injury and danger of her life. As a result of the assault the child became floppy, had difficulty breathing and had a Glasgow Coma Score of only 3, the lowest possible score. The joint report from four doctors at the hospital who were involved in her care stated that she arrived at hospital in a critically ill state. She was found to be unconscious, cold and with abnormal movements and poor respiration. The paediatric neurological surgeon who gave expert evidence described her condition as one of moderate to severe brain dysfunction. Further medical investigations showed that she had suffered subdural and subarachnoid and bilateral retinal haemorrhages. In my judgement the evidence indicated that she could have died had it not been for the excellent treatment she received from the paramedics who attended at the scene and the doctors and nurses at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. Fortunately she appears to have made a good recovery, but it is too early to say whether she will suffer from any form of impairment in the future.

You are now 29 years old, have no previous convictions and have two young children of whom you are the full-time carer. The expert medical evidence was that the child’s injuries could have been caused by an unplanned and momentary loss of control on your part. I have considered the criminal justice social work report on you and all that has been said on your behalf in mitigation and asked myself whether this case could appropriately be dealt with by way of a non-custodial sentence. I have concluded that it cannot. What you did almost cost the child her life and there are aggravating factors present which clearly point away from such a sentence. First, as a childminder you were in a position of trust in relation to the child. Secondly, after the assault, when the child had become floppy, had difficulty breathing and was therefore critically ill, you did not immediately call an ambulance, but instead called a friend of yours who was the link between you and the child’s parents. It is a reasonable inference that you did this in the hope that the child could be revived and that you could avoid the involvement of the authorities, who would have been bound to find out what you had done. Thirdly, you failed to disclose at the time what you had done, thus making more difficult the task of the doctors who were treating the child at hospital and who did not know what had caused her condition. You have continued all along to deny your guilt, even after your conviction, and therefore shown no remorse.

Taking all the circumstances into account and restricting the sentence in light of your circumstances as much as I feel able to do so, the sentence which I impose is three years imprisonment."