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Stepfather and mother jailed over death of baby Jacob Crouch after 10-month-old suffered ‘car crash-like’ injuries | UK News | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Craig Crouch was sentenced to a minimum of 28 years after a trial at Derby Crown Court, while Jacob’s mother, Gemma Barton, was jailed for a total of 10 years for child cruelty and causing or allowing the death of the 10-month-old – who suffered “intense and prolonged harm”.

Friday 4 August 2023 15:40, UK

A man has been jailed for a minimum of 28 years after killing a 10-month-old baby boy who suffered injuries likened to those seen in car crash victims after repeated serious assaults.

Craig Crouch was convicted on Wednesday of the “vicious” murder of stepson Jacob Crouch, as well as three counts of child cruelty.

The 39-year-old was locked up following a seven-week trial at Derby Crown Court which heard how Jacob was the victim of a “culture of cruelty” which saw him “assaulted on a regular basis” by his stepfather over six months.

In a statement read to the court today on his behalf, Andrew Smith, Jacob’s father, who had separated from Gemma Barton by the time Jacob was born, said “though I tried I never got to meet him, I’ll never hear my son call me Dad.”

He said there will be no memories of Jacob’s first steps or first words. “I can’t understand how or why you inflicted the injuries you did, Craig” he added.

“My son has some justice but it will never be enough.”

Jacob ‘would have been in significant pain’ for much of his short life

Jacob’s mother, Gemma Barton, 33, was cleared of murder and manslaughter but found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child, and one count of child cruelty.

She was jailed a total of 10 years – including seven-and-a-half for causing or allowing the death of a child and two-and-a-half years for child cruelty, to be served consecutively.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Kerr said: “Jacob was a happy, smiley, bubbly baby who never complained about the horrific treatment he was receiving.

“He had to put up with it, and he did, often with a smile.”

The judge described Crouch as “in some ways, an unlikely murderer” – but added that he was “domineering, aggressive, boastful and arrogant”, and caused Jacob “intense and prolonged harm”.

“You caused Jacob acute physical and mental suffering,” Mr Justice Kerr told Crouch.

Couple found guilty of murdering baby

“You inflicted first bruising, and then fractured ribs, on this little baby. You have not shown any remorse for what you did.”

The judge told Barton: “I am sure you knew Jacob’s plight was serious. You failed to take such steps that you reasonably should have been expected to have undertaken.

“The evidence was there to see, but you failed to face up to it.”

Crouch, of Moira in Leicestershire, remained silent in the dock, while Barton, of Heanor, Derbyshire, and members of the public gallery wept during the hearing.

Dozens of children died following abuse at home during 2020 lockdown

Jacob was tragically one of 36 children who died in England following abuse and maltreatment at home in 2020, the NSPCC said in a statement after the sentence was passed.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “For large parts of the year, due to lockdowns, children were cut off from their usual support systems and the wider community, making those at risk of abuse more vulnerable to serious harm.”

Warning: This article contains details of a graphic nature

The infant was found dead in his cot at the family home in Linton, near Swadlincote, Derbyshire, on 30 December 2020 despite Crouch claiming in a 999 call that Jacob was “fine” just two hours before he died.

A post-mortem examination found he had died as a result of peritonitis – an infection of the lining of the abdominal organs – caused by a traumatic bowel perforation.

Dr Michael Biggs, a forensic pathologist, told the trial this could have only been caused by blunt force trauma, such as a punch, kick or stamp.

Further examinations found Jacob also had 39 rib fractures, 19 visible bruises and internal injuries, which Dr Biggs likened to those seen in car crash victims or those who had suffered a multi-storey fall.

Police statement on Jacob Crouch

Detectives investigating the case said for much of Jacob’s short life, “he would have been in significant pain as a result of the serious and repeated assaults”.

In evidence, Crouch, a former forklift driver at JCB, said Jacob’s injuries had “nothing to do with me”, stating he “didn’t see anything” and “didn’t see anyone do anything to hurt” his stepson.

He suggested the injuries could have been caused by Jacob falling over or hitting himself with a toy, an explanation that a consultant paediatrician labelled “not remotely” possible.

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Barton also denied ever harming her son, and when asked who could have inflicted the injuries, said: “It was not me so that leaves Craig.”

She claimed her son was her “bundle of joy” and said it felt like her “whole world had just ended” when she was awoken by Crouch screaming Jacob was dead.

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In text messages from June 2020, Crouch told Barton she needed to be “more regimental” with Jacob to “not let this take over us”, claiming he was “starting to get really p***** off with him” in a later text.

Other messages revealed the pair at one stage referred to Jacob as the “devil” and discussed feeding him his own vomit and sending him to bed or smacking him for “crying for no reason”.

In September, when Barton told Crouch she was bathing Jacob, he replied “3 foot deep, just hot water and some bleach xxxx”, a comment he later described in a police interview as “banter”.

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In mitigation, Clive Stockwell KC, representing Barton, said she was “effectively isolated” by Crouch, who was “coercive and controlling”.

“She failed to protect her son on that fatal night when she should have been aware, as the jury found, of the risk posed by Crouch.

“She will have to live with the reality of that finding.”

Anyone who has concerns for a child’s safety is urged to contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, which offers free, confidential help or advice.


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