HMA v Thomas Kenneth Murdoch Haining

At the High Court in Edinburgh today (15 October 2019) Lord Pentland sentenced Thomas Haining to 8 years’ imprisonment after the offender pled guilty to killing his baby daughter.

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

“Thomas Kenneth Murdoch Haining, in the early hours of 8 June 2017 you killed your baby daughter, Mikayla Haining. I use the term ‘killed’ advisedly since the Crown has accepted your late plea of guilty to the crime of culpable homicide and has elected not to insist on the original and more serious allegation of murder. It is my responsibility, therefore, to sentence you on the basis that you did not deliberately intend to kill Mikayla and that your conduct did not demonstrate such a degree of wicked recklessness as to justify the inference that you had the state of mind of a murderer. Unlike the sentence for murder, which is fixed by law, the sentence for the lesser offence of culpable homicide depends on the whole circumstances of the case. I will now summarise these.

Mikayla was 23 days old.  She was in your sole care at the time of her death. You shook her, causing her head to strike a door so that she was so severely injured that she later died.

The injuries you caused to Mikayla were extremely serious. You fractured five of her ribs on the right side and two on the left. You must have squeezed or gripped her hard as you shook her. Expert medical evidence showed that Mikayla suffered a blunt force injury to her head, resulting in a fractured skull and bruising to her scalp. There was acute bleeding into the space around Mikayla’s brain. The blood vessels between her brain and its outermost membrane had been ruptured. There were injuries behind her eyes in the optic nerves. All these findings pointed to recent traumatic head injury caused by shaking or by shaking combined with impact. Anyone knows that to shake a baby is highly dangerous. 

Whilst this attack was the work of a few moments and, the Crown accepts, of a sudden loss of control on your part, it was unquestionably a violent and severe assault on a highly vulnerable baby, who was completely dependent on you at the time of her death. I conclude that this was an attack in which you displayed a substantial degree of recklessness, although I must proceed on the footing that it fell short of being a truly murderous assault as a matter of law.

After the attack you delayed in seeking assistance for Mikayla and for a time attempted to conceal what you had done. There may have been an element of panic in your immediate reaction, but you had the presence of mind to carry out three internet searches before wakening the child’s mother nearly an hour after the fatal assault. Your immediate reaction was to protect yourself rather than to seek help for Mikayla.

I have taken account of all that has been said on your behalf in mitigation and of the contents of the criminal justice social work report. You were 19 years of age at the time you killed Mikayla. You are now 21. You have no previous criminal convictions, but there is information in the report about your violent and aggressive conduct when you were in your teenage years. I acknowledge that you had a challenging upbringing. You have now shown a degree of remorse and insight into the gravity of your crime. 

Causing the death of a child by a violent assault is an extremely serious offence, which must attract a lengthy sentence of imprisonment. The gravity of the crime is aggravated in your case by the fact that the victim was a young and defenceless infant and by your failure to seek immediate assistance after the attack. 

No sentence that I can impose can undo the damage you have caused. In selecting your sentence, I have paid careful regard to the sentences imposed in similar cases, and to guidance issued by the criminal appeal court.

Had I been sentencing you for the offence of culpable homicide after trial, I would have imposed a sentence of 9 years imprisonment. Taking account of the late stage at which you tendered a guilty plea, I will reduce that to a term of 8 years imprisonment. Your sentence will be backdated to 11 September 2019. 

Details of your conviction have been intimated to the Scottish Government in terms of the legislation protecting vulnerable groups.”