Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Father describes 'devastating' case

Allan Young broke down in tears at the Old Bailey
Allan Young broke down in tears at the Old Bailey
Allan Young, 36, broke down in tears at the Old Bailey as the jury returned a verdict of not guilty

A father who was wrongly accused of the manslaughter of his newborn son, 16 years after shaking the baby, said the "devastating" prosecution "turned my world upside down".

A tearful Allan Young, 36, questioned whether the public interest was best served in attempting to convict him after he was found not guilty of the manslaughter of Michael Winn.

Glaswegian Mr Young broke down in tears at the Old Bailey as the jury returned a verdict of not guilty following more than 24 hours of deliberation.

Mr Young had previously been jailed for 12 months after admitting causing grievous bodily harm to five-week-old Michael Winn in 1998, leaving him "severely disabled" with catastrophic brain injuries that were said to have led to the child's death in 2011, the court heard.

When Michael died, Mr Young was further charged with manslaughter following a change in the law.

Before 1996, charges of murder or manslaughter could only be brought if death occurred within a year and a day from the date of the original assault.

In Mr Young's case, charges were brought even though there had been a 12-year gap, making it the longest on record.

Speaking outside the court, through his solicitor Jenny Wiltshire of Hickman Rose, said: " There are no winners in this case, or in relation to what happened to Michael. I had moved on with my life, with my new partner and lovely little girl.

"When Michael tragically died, I was arrested out of the blue, and once again my world was turned upside down.

"I really question whether it was in the public interest to prosecute me after so long."

The statement added: "The effect has been devastating for me and my family. But I thank the jury for the care they gave to this difficult and sensitive case.

"I know there are others who share my grief for the illness Michael suffered and his death. I hope they like me can now move on."

The prosecution said Michael's death was a direct result of the injuries he suffered years earlier which caused cerebral palsy and curvature of the spine.

His physical and intellectual development was impaired to such an extent that he had trouble breathing, was blind, incontinent and could not speak.

Following the assault, Michael was assessed as having only a 65% chance of surviving to the age of 11, the court heard.

Mr Young, of Stevenston in Ayrshire, Scotland, denied manslaughter and toda y, after 24 hours and 40 minutes' deliberations, a jury of 10 people reached a verdict which found him not guilty.

The court heard Mr Young was unemployed and living with his partner Erica Francis in Belsize Road, north-west London, when he shook his baby early on April 16 1998.

When Miss Francis, then 17, woke up later that day, she noticed Michael had become "all floppy" and had "staring eyes that did not focus", prosecutor Zoe Johnson QC said.

At first, she thought Michael had caught flu from her, but the next day he was still being sick.

Ms Johnson said: "Erica described seeing Michael lying in his crib awake but lifeless. When she picked him up, he just slumped in her arms."

She decided to call the health visitor, prompting Mr Young to admit he "may have hurt Michael" and shaken him because he would not stop crying, the court heard.

When the baby arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in London, he was "pale and fitting". A CT scan revealed he had suffered bleeding on his brain and he was diagnosed with "shaken baby syndrome", the prosecution said.

He was eventually discharged from hospital in May 1998 into the care of Camden social services, which placed him with foster parents before he was adopted.

Meanwhile, both parents were arrested and Mr Young was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm.

On January 11 2011, his adoptive mother Karen Heppleston-Winn saw Michael's breathing had stopped and despite the efforts of medics, he died overnight on January 23 2011 at the age of 12.

A post-mortem examination found he died of "respiratory insufficiency caused by pneumonia and the marked curvature of the spine" as a result of the injuries Michael suffered as a very young infant, Ms Johnson said.

At the time of his death, his adoptive mother described him as having the functioning age of six weeks, the court heard.

Mr Young was arrested in Scotland in March 2011 and told police in interview that he had "accidentally shaken" Michael for mere seconds after he had been up all night, the court heard.

At the time, he said he and Miss Francis had been having problems in their relationship and they were trying to sort things out, the jury was told.

At the conclusion of the trial, Mr Young simply bowed his head as the jury foreman returned a not guilty verdict, before breaking into tears.

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