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Innocent Family Destroyed
June 28, 2010 permalink
British father Ben Butler spent four months in jail on a false shaken baby accusation. He has been cleared by the courts, but social services is still restricting his visits with his daughter, who survived the shaking, to twice a year under supervision of social workers. And the child's mother? She has been kicked out of the girl's life completely. Her sin was supporting dad throughout his ordeal.
Father whose 'shaken baby' conviction was quashed faces new access battle
Ben Butler, whose conviction for harming his baby daughter in a "shaken baby syndrome" case has been overturned by the Court of Appeal, now faces a new legal battle in the Family Courts for the right to see his little girl.
When Ben Butler noticed that his baby daughter had gone limp and was gasping for air, he called immediately for an ambulance.
The new father had no idea that the health scare would mark the start of a three-year ordeal which would see him wrongly convicted of harming his child, and jailed for four months with a sex offender for a cellmate.
When the ambulance was slow to arrive, Mr Butler took the two-month-old baby by car to St Helier Hospital, south London.
Doctors at the hospital diagnosed bleeding on the brain, bleeding in the eye and swelling of brain tissue - the “triad” of injuries seen as indicators of a “shaken baby” who has been deliberately injured.
The father, from Sutton, insisted he had not hurt his daughter. The baby’s mother, his then-partner, supported him.
The baby was later transferred to St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London, where a different team of doctors said the head injury had in fact been caused at birth. She went on to make a full recovery.
Yet the couple were arrested in March 2007 and Mr Butler was charged with GBH and cruelty. At his trial at Croydon Crown Court in March 2009, he was convicted and given an 18-month sentence.
The conviction was finally quashed at the High Court this month following an extended legal battle. Yet Mr Butler, 30, a former removal man, said the ordeal had devastated his life and left him unable to find work.
He also now faces a fresh battle with social services in the Family Courts over his right to see his daughter.
The father, who has no previous convictions, is only given supervised access to see the child twice a year, for two hours at a time, at a social services contact centre.
Social services have also taken custody of the child away from the mother because she continued to defend him over the shaken baby charges.
The mother, who can not be named for legal reasons, said: “Because I didn’t come out and attack Ben and say I thought he’d harm her, they ridiculed me.
“My child means everything to me and now I’m only able to see her six times a year. I was told at one point that if I went against Ben it would be to my advantage and I’d have more chance of getting my daughter back.
"It’s outrageous. Because I took Ben’s side they decided that I was a risk to my child. It’s been horrendous.”
Mr Butler added that he now intends to contest the social services’ decision to deny him and the mother access to their child.
“It could be a long process,” he said. “It could be years before I get to have proper access to my daughter.
"Even now – even though I’ve been proven innocent – I’ve still got to fight. It’s been three-and-a-half years and it’s non-stop – a constant battle. It takes everything from you. I’ve thrown everything at it and I just want to see her.”
Mr Butler was freed on police bail while awaiting trial, but following his conviction he was sent to Littlehey Prison, Cambridgeshire, where he shared a cell with a man who had been convicted of sexual assault.
Mr Butler said: “It was horrendous. It’s still difficult to talk about it. They sent me to a vulnerable prisoners’ prison. I was put with sex offenders.
“I never spoke to the guy I shared a cell with – it’s like being put in a mental hospital when you’re not mental. It was just a horrible, dirty feeling where everyone is on a different wavelength.”
He added: “These three-and-a-half years have been horrendous. I can’t believe that it’s taken so long to clear my name.
"I can’t believe so much money has been wasted on prosecuting an innocent person when there was so much evidence that it wasn’t a shaken baby case.”
After four months behind bars, Mr Butler was released following an order by the Court of Appeal last year, pending its final decision on his case this month.
In quashing the conviction Lord Justice Moses also criticised the trial judge, Timothy Shaw.
He said that the significance of the fact that by the time of the trial the baby had already made a full recovery – something which is rare in shaken baby cases – had not been properly explained to the jury.
Lord Moses found that if the little girl’s injuries had been caused by shaking her full recovery “would not have been expected”.
He said: “The recovery cast doubt on a severe shaking injury; indeed it told against a major shaking incident.”
In his ruling Lord Moses said that “nowhere in his ruling” did the trial judge “fully acknowledge the weight to be attached” to parts of the evidence.
He added: “No proper direction was given to the jury that they must consider the possibility of an unknown cause, and should only convict if they reject it.”
Mr Butler added: “It should never have been a shaken baby case. The police were only interested in evidence that strengthened their case against me.
“The trial came down to medical opinion only and the medical evidence just didn’t add up.”
He also said he intends to take action against the police for wrongful arrest.
Source: Daily Telegraph