Man cleared after jury reject ‘shaken baby’ case
09:36 14 February 2014
A babysitter has been cleared of killing a ten-month-old girl in a so-called shaken baby case.
James Hunt was found not guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court after the jury heard extensive medical evidence by leading experts on both sides of the debate.
He was in sole charge of Kimberly Barrett when the child collapsed at her mother’s Hayley Bradshaw’s home in Ottery St Mary at Christmas 2011.
He was cleared after the jury spent more than a day considering three weeks of evidence in which the defence challenged the medical cause of death.
The prosecution said a combination of symptoms found while the child was being treated and at post mortem examination meant she must have suffered a significant head trauma.
Hunt, aged 30, of Pellinore Road, Exeter, always denied hurting Kimberly and said she had gone floppy suddenly on two occasions when he was looking after her.
He had been the boyfriend of Kimberly’s mother for four months and looked after the child when she was out at work at her part time job at the Co-op store in Ottery.
The prosecution alleged Hunt caused Kimberly fatal injuries by either shaking her or throwing her down violently on Christmas Night while her mother was visiting a neighbour’s flat.
They said he was in a bad mood because he was unable to spend Christmas with his own two young children, who were with his estranged partner in Exmouth.
Kimberly’s mother said Hunt had come to the next door flat on Christmas night to tell her that the baby was ‘kicking off’ and ask her to come back. When she did the baby was quiet and in her cot.
Hunt denied ever harming the child or causing any injury.
Much of the three weeks was taken up with evidence from the most eminent experts on both sides of the debate about so-called shaken baby syndrome.
The Judge gave the jury 25 different medical questions they should determine while reaching their verdicts.
He also reminded them that if they were not sure Hunt had caused Kimberly’s death they should return a verdict of not guilty.
Kimberly died at the Bristol Children’s Hospital on December 29, 2011, three days after she collapsed into a coma at Hayley Bradshaw’s ground floor flat in Spencer Court, Ottery.
Before the trial Judge Mr Justice Lindblom had ruled the jury should not be told of Hunt’s alleged use of cannabis in the days around Christmas.
In her original police statements Hayley said he spent much of his time in their bedroom smoking drugs at the time and his use of drugs affected his mood.
The Judge ruled this amounted to evidence of bad character and should not be put before the jury.
At the end of the case the judge thanked the jury for the careful consideration they had given to the evidence and commended the police team who had given up their weekends during the trial to ensure evidence was delivered to Dr Squier in time for her to comment on it in the witness box.
Hunt was discharged and freed immediately. He has been in custody for much of the two years and two months the case has taken to come to court.