Father who brain damaged son cleared of manslaughter

Allan Young outside the Old Bailey, London. Picture: PA
Allan Young outside the Old Bailey, London. Picture: PA
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A FATHER who shook his baby son so hard he left him severely disabled with catastrophic brain injuries has been cleared of manslaughter after the boy died more than 12 years later.

Glaswegian Allan Young, 36, had previously been jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to five-week-old Michael Winn in April 1998.

The Old Bailey heard the boy suffered cerebral palsy and curvature of the spine, and his physical and intellectual development was impaired to such an extent that he had trouble breathing and was blind, incontinent and could not speak.

After the assault, Michael was assessed as having only a 65 per cent chance of surviving to the age of 11.

After he died aged 12 in January 2011, Mr Young was charged with manslaughter. However, a jury yesterday returned a verdict of not guilty following more than 24 hours of deliberation.

The court heard Young had been unemployed and living with his partner, Erica Francis, in London when he shook his baby because he would not stop crying. When Miss Francis, then 17, woke up later that day, she noticed Michael had become “all floppy” and had “staring eyes that did not focus”, prosecutor Zoe Johnson QC said.

At first, she thought Michael had caught flu from her, but the next day he was still being sick.

Ms Johnson said: “Erica described seeing Michael lying in his crib awake but lifeless. When she picked him up, he just slumped in her arms.”

Miss Francis decided to call the health visitor, prompting Young to admit he “may have hurt Michael” and shaken him because he would not stop crying, the court heard.

Michael was taken to hospital and a CT scan revealed he had suffered bleeding on his brain. He was diagnosed with “shaken baby syndrome”. He was eventually discharged in May 1998 into the care of Camden social services, which placed him with foster parents before he was adopted.

On 11 January, 2011, his adoptive mother saw Michael’s breathing had stopped.

A post-mortem examination found he had died of “respiratory insufficiency caused by pneumonia and the marked curvature of the spine” as a result of the injuries he suffered as a very young infant, Ms Johnson said. At the time of his death, his adoptive mother described him as having the functioning age of six weeks.

Young, of Stevenston, Ayrshire, was arrested and charged with manslaughter. The prosecution claimed Michael’s death had been a direct result of the injuries he had suffered years earlier, but the jury of ten cleared him.

Speaking outside the court, through his solicitor, Young said: “There are no winners in this case, or in relation to what happened to Michael. I had moved on with my life, with my new partner and lovely little girl.

“When Michael tragically died, I was arrested out of the blue, and once again my world was turned upside down.

“I really question whether it was in the public interest to prosecute me after so long. The effect has been devastating for me and my family.”