Woman jailed for dunking baby's dummy in methadone

A WOMAN who dunked a baby's dummy in the dregs of her methadone to stop him crying has been jailed for three years.

A court heard that the ten-week-old child, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, almost died.

Doctors found "a huge quantity" of the drug – given to addicts to wean them off heroin – in the child's urine.

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They said it was too early to tell whether there might be any lasting effects, advocate depute Morag Jack, prosecuting, told the High Court in Edinburgh.

Susan Taylor, 29, admitted a charge of culpably and recklessly causing the child to ingest methadone, to the danger of his life, over a three week period in November 2008.

Although Taylor admitted the charge last September the case could not be reported until today because Taylor's lesbian partner – who was also in the house – was facing trial over the incident.

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court today Lynn Cowan, 28, appeared from custody and halted a planned trial by admitting that when Taylor told her she had given the little boy methadone, Cowan failed to pass on the information to medics.

Sheriff Alistair Noble jailed Cowan for a total of ten months – eight months for a charge brought under the Children and Young Persons Act and two months for missing a previous court date.

"You were not aware of what might happen to the child and, knowing that the child had ingested methadone, it was plainly your duty to tell doctors of that immediately," said the sheriff.

The High Court hearing last September was told that the couple – who both have drug problems – regularly looked after the little boy at his home in Leith.

Ms Jack described how they were watching television there when Cowan suddenly realised the baby wasn't breathing.

His lips were blue and his face was grey, said Ms Jack.

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By the time ambulance personnel arrived on the scene the baby wasn't breathing, apart from a single gasp for air.

The child suffered fits on the way to the city's Royal Hospital for Sick Children and was kept in intensive care, gradually improving over the next 36 hours.

Police were called in when tests revealed the presence of methadone two days later.

When questioned, Taylor admitted rolling the child's dummy around the measuring cup she used to take her daily methadone.

"She said he was a grumpy baby and had lots of temper tantrums," said Ms Jack.

The baby was crying for his feed and she thought it would calm him down. She didn't think it would do any harm and the baby only sucked on it for between three and five minutes before spitting it out.

Later Taylor also admitted doing this on an earlier occasion, but Ms Jack told judge Lord Bannatyne: "There were more administrations than the accused told the police."

The judge was also told that poisons expert Professor Robin Braithwaite had prepared a report on the case.

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He said methadone presented a high risk to children because it tasted sweet. As little as half a teaspoonful could prove fatal.

"Professor Braithwaite is of the opinion that without prompt medical intervention the baby would have died," said Ms Jack. "He is unable to comment on whether there will be any lasting effects."

The professor also concluded that if the little boy was given a dummy dipped in methadone this would have to be done more than once or twice to build up the high dose revealed by hospital tests.

Defence advocate Susan Duff said Taylor was "distressed" when the baby cried and she was unable to settle him. She rolled the dummy round in the remains of her methadone.

"She in no way intended to cause him any harm," said the lawyer.

"She loves him. She had no concept of how dangerous feeding methadone to a young baby was."

But Lord Bannatyne told Taylor, formerly of North Fort Street, Leith, that she had shown "a high degree of recklessness".

The court heard that Taylor has a long criminal record for drug offences, shop-lifting and causing disturbances.

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Lord Bannatyne ordered his three year sentence to follow a 26-month sentence Taylor is currently serving for snatching a 66-year-old woman's bag at knife-point.

At the Sheriff Court hearing today, defence solicitor Peter Winning said Cowan only realised that Taylor had dipped the dummy in methadone after doctors had already begun treating the baby.

Then she kept quiet out of a misguided sense of loyalty.

Fiscal John Kirk said medical opinion was divided as to whether earlier knowledge of the methadone in the boy's system would have made any difference but it would have given doctors "another treatment option" at least.