Dad who shook newborn son to death has jail term increased

James Clark has had his minimum sentence increased Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

A father who shook and squeezed his newborn son to death in a "deeply upsetting and disturbing" crime has had his minimum prison sentence increased by the Court of Appeal.

James Clark, from Warmley in South Gloucestershire, was jailed for life in September and ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years in prison for killing 39-day-old Sean Clark.

During Clark’s trial at Bristol Crown Court, jurors heard that after inflicting the fatal injuries in January 2018 he put Sean in his cot and went to bed, leaving the boy’s mother Helen Jeremy to find him dead the next morning.

A post-mortem examination was carried out and revealed Sean had been assaulted on at least three occasions – suffering 71 rib fractures and head injuries consistent with being shaken.

After the trial, the Solicitor General referred the case to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient scheme and judges have now increased Clark’s minimum term to 18 years.

Solicitor General Alex Chalk said: “This was a deeply upsetting and disturbing case, involving an extremely vulnerable victim.

“Clark grossly abused his position of trust and his actions stole the life of an innocent child he should have been protecting.

“It is only right the sentence has been increased to reflect the severity of the crime.”

'A cold and callous act'

Detective Superintendent James Riccio, who led the investigation for Avon and Somerset Police, said: “This increase in sentence better reflects the gravity of the heinous crime this man committed against his own 39-day-old son.

“It’s hard to put into words how devastating the loss of a child is, especially when it’s as a result of such a cold and callous act.

“Our thoughts are very much with all those who loved Sean and I hope they feel a greater sense of justice now the sentence against his murderer has been increased.”

The trial heard Clark, 31, and Sean's mother Ms Jeremy lived separately at their respective parents’ homes but at weekends would stay together.

Bristol Crown Court Credit: BristolLive/BPM

Ms Jeremy and Sean had gone to Clark’s home on January 11 to stay for the weekend and on the morning of January 14 she discovered her son’s body.

Clark, of Neads Drive, denied murder but was convicted following a trial at Bristol Crown Court.

Ms Jeremy, 27, of Russell Avenue, Kingswood, also stood trial but was acquitted of murder and causing or allowing Sean’s death.

Andrew Langdon QC, defending, said Clark suffered from autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and that had impaired his ability to understand the consequences of the fatal attack.

“It may be a mistake to assume that he was wicked, devious, cunning, ruthless and cold-hearted as one could be more confident with a man who suffered none of those impairments in his thinking,” Mr Langdon said.

Imposing a life sentence, Mr Justice Butcher said: “He had died from a brain injury caused by being very roughly handled or shaken, exacerbated by injuries to his rib cage caused by squeezing.

“It was you who had inflicted the injuries upon him which caused his death. What exactly happened or why we do not know because you have not said.”