Father jailed for baby son's death

A YOUNG mother whose ex-boyfriend killed one of their baby twins has spoken of her shock after he was jailed for just 18 months yesterday.James Tuffs, 21, of Onehouse near Stowmarket, will serve no longer than nine months in custody for the manslaughter of his four-month-old twin son Byron in January last year.

By John Howard

A YOUNG mother whose ex-boyfriend killed one of their baby twins has spoken of her shock after he was jailed for just 18 months yesterday.

James Tuffs, 21, of Onehouse near Stowmarket, will serve no longer than nine months in custody for the manslaughter of his four-month-old twin son Byron in January last year.

The judge who sentenced Tuffs said he had been grossly negligent in allowing baby Byron to fall asleep with him on a sofa instead of putting the child back in his cot.


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But Mr Justice Bell stressed that, despite impressions given in some media reports since Tuffs was convicted at Norwich Crown Court in July, there was no evidence that he injured either Byron or his brother Tyrese because they made him irritable by interrupting him while he was playing computer games.

The judge also said the verdict indicated that the jury - which acquitted Tuffs of cruelty towards Tyrese and was not asked to make a decision on who caused bone fractures to both babies - was not satisfied that he was guilty of causing those injuries.

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Tuffs wept uncontrollably as the judge, sitting in London, said he could find no exceptional circumstances to justify suspending the sentence.

Judge Mr Justice Bell said: “Gross lack of care leading to death must lead to real punishment.''

But Zoe O'Leary, 19, who claimed she was driven to the brink of suicide after baby Byron's death, said the sentence was not nearly harsh enough.

She added: “He should have got longer for what he did - it's not really long enough.”

Miss O'Leary, who gave evidence against her former boyfriend at his trial, said she was in a complete state of shock after little Byron's death.

She added felt that her life was wrecked and branded the sentence her former lover received as far too lenient.

But speaking outside court, Tuff's disabled mother Violet Tuffs, from Onehouse, said: “He should not have been sent to prison, it was an accident, he did not fall asleep on purpose.

“He was so tired from looking after three children all the time. He loved his children to bits.

“He said it was his fault, he should not have fallen asleep on his son, but he should not have been sent to prison.''

The judge accepted that Tuffs had not meant any harm and that tiredness caused by night-time care of the children contributed to his negligence.

During the trial, the court heard that Tuffs cared for Byron and Tyrese while his girlfriend, Miss O'Leary looked after their daughter Aaliyah, now two.

In January 2004 doctors declared Byron dead after he was found “grey and floppy” at the family home in Stowmarket, and prosecutor Oliver Sells QC told jurors that Tuffs became irritable if he was interrupted while playing computer games.

The court heard that on January 5 last year Tuffs told Miss O'Leary that Tyrese had stopped breathing.

Tuffs said he had given the baby mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and he was taken to a nearby doctor's surgery where he was checked and found to be well.

But less than three weeks later Byron was declared dead after being found in a similar condition.

Neither child had external injuries, but fractures were revealed by X-ray examinations.

Yesterday, the judge was told by defence lawyers that Tuffs was “pretty much a broken young man” having lost everything that was dear to him, including contact with his other children and there was no danger of his re-offending.

Mr Justice Bell told Tuffs his negligent conduct was particularly serious because, only two weeks before, he let Tyrese fall asleep on the sofa and woke to find he was not breathing.

He said: “If ever there was a warning of the dangers of allowing the babies to fall asleep on the sofa, that was it.''

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