'Drug addict' father jailed after killing son with morphine tablet
A "drug addict" father has been jailed for four years after he killed his 13-year-old son with a morphine tablet.
Kevin Morton, 49, passed the medication to Kye Backhouse when the youngster complained he had a headache and could not sleep last October.
He found the teenager "motionless" on the settee at his flat in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, the following morning and paramedics pronounced him dead after they were called to the address by the defendant.
Morton had illegally obtained the prescription drug, Zomorph, and was a regular self-medicator with a dependence on painkillers and psychoactive substances.
He told police that he thought a stronger tablet would help his son and he did not want to go to the shops because it was raining and he was wearing pyjamas.
Sentencing him, the Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC, told the defendant: "The message must go out that giving dangerous drugs to others without them being specifically prescribed, whatever the motive, is criminal, potentially very harmful and will result in severe punishment."
Reading a victim impact statement at Preston Crown Court on behalf of Kye's family, his grandfather, Michael Backhouse, said: "We feel this case is simple. An alcoholic should not share any alcohol with their children, a chain smoker should not give them cigarettes and a drug addict should not give their children drugs.
"Kevin could spend the rest of his life in prison and it would not give Kye back to us but we do feel he has to be punished.
"Kevin cannot be allowed to walk away from this because he is sorry."
Morton, of Ewan Close, pleaded guilty to manslaughter at an earlier hearing at Preston Crown Court.
Mr Backhouse also told the court: "The death of Kye has utterly devastated our family. There is not a day goes by that we do not think of him and it is still a constant struggle to cope without him.
"Kye was a funny, loving boy who was just beginning to show signs of becoming a man.
"In our eyes it feels more like murder. We thought that he was safe with his dad. He was meant to protect him, a parent is meant to warn their children off drugs, not actively supply them with a pill that causes them to die.
"Kye was not a street-wise boy and he loved and trusted his father. He would have taken any tablet his father would have handed him without question."
Regarding Morton's illegal self-medicating, Mr Backhouse said: "He clearly thinks he knows better than a trained doctor but his attitude has caused the death of our gorgeous grandson. This was not an accident.
"We do not care whether Kevin is sorry or not. Kye is still dead."
The court heard the defendant had been the sole carer of Kye since he was aged three following the break-up of the relationship with his mother, Kerri Backhouse, from Manchester, who had maintained regular contact.
Jeremy Grout-Smith, prosecuting, said Morton explained he regularly obtained prescription drugs for back pain but had conceded he also "got a buzz from taking the tablets".
Morton has refused to identify the man who gave him the morphine, he added.
James Heyworth, defending Morton, said: "Living with the knowledge that Mr Morton caused the death of his son must in my submission be a daily mental torture that can and will never end.
"In reality it is the real punishment for what he had done that night.
"It is clear from psychiatric and pre-sentence reports that Mr Morton would end his life in an instance if he could but to some extent he does not wish to do so because he does not want to dishonour the name of his son.
"It is plain that he gave no thought to the potential consequences. If he thought there was any chance that this medication would hurt or kill his son, he would never have done it.
"He tells me 'the day Kye died, I died'."
Judge Russell said the sentence for Kye's death on October 9 last year "must reflect the fact that a young life has been lost".
He told Morton: "Yours was a crime of reckless disregard for the consequences of what you were doing rather than an intention to cause any harm to Kye - and the thought that he might suffer serious harm or die probably never crossed your mind.
"Further you are genuinely remorseful, having caused the death of your son in this way.
"However there is no getting away from the fact that your actions have not only caused you to be in this position but have caused considerable distress to Kye's family.
"They will live with the consequences of your actions for the rest of their lives and the memory of these events will be a source of unhappiness within the family for years.
"The statement of Mr Backhouse makes the important point that you, as Kye's father, had a special responsibility to care for Kye.
"The court is not here to exact revenge, nor to sentence you for a crime which has not been charged. This is a case of manslaughter, not murder, and the sentence must reflect that.
"However the fact that a death has occurred as a result of giving a dangerous unprescribed drugs to a child makes this a very serious offence."
Following sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Furzana Nazir, who led the case, said: "The case highlights the dangers of the misuse of prescription drugs which should only be used when prescribed by a medical professional and, in that instance, only for whom they have been prescribed and the quantity specified.
"Our thoughts are with the family at this time."