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A depressed mother has been spared jail for killing her 10-week-old daughter six days after the girl was discharged into her parents’ care against the advice of healthcare professionals.
Lily-Mai Hurrell Saint George suffered 18 rib fractures, a leg fracture and a fatal head injury at the hands of Lauren Saint George, 25, hours after a home visit from a social worker.
Saint George was suffering from post natal depression when she violently shook Lily-Mai and pulling and twisting her leg on January 31 2018.
Lily-Mai's death could almost definitely have been avoided if she had not been discharged into the care of two people who were woefully unsuited to caring for her
Sally O'Neill QC
Lily-Mai died at Great Ormond Street Hospital on February 2, when surgeons turned off her life support machine due to the extent of her brain damage.
Six days before the attack Haringey social services decided Lily-Mai should be transferred to the sole care of her parents, Saint George and Darren Hurrell, 25, despite professionals at Barnet Hospital warning she was at risk of neglect.
Prosecutor Sally O’Neill QC told the jury: “Lily-Mai’s death could almost definitely have been avoided if she had not been discharged into the care of two people who were woefully unsuited to caring for her.”
The Metropolitan Police initially said there was insufficient evidence to charge her parents but they both faced trial over Lily-Mai’s death after a coroner last year ruled she was unlawfully killed.
A jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for more than 11 hours to find Saint George, of Enfield in north London, not guilty of murder and manslaughter.
However, she was found guilty of a charge of infanticide by a majority of 10 to one.
The charge is an alternative to murder where a mother kills her child while her mind is disturbed by a failure to recover from the effects of childbirth.
Saint George and Mr Hurrell, of Alvaston in Derby, were both cleared of a separate charge of child cruelty.
Previously, Mr Justice Spencer had found Mr Hurrell had no case to answer for charges of murder and manslaughter and threw out a charge of causing or allowing the death of a child against both parents.
Following the verdicts on Monday, the judge adjourned sentencing Saint George until September 9 to allow for a report to be prepared by the Probation Service.
But he told her that any prison sentence would be suspended, as she had already “suffered and continues to suffer”.
The senior judge said: “It is quite clear to me you were depressed, still suffering from the effects of the birth at the time you committed the act that caused the death and the verdict of infanticide is one that has traditionally evoked sympathy rather than punishment.”
The court heard the defendants had been housed at a flat in Duckett’s Green, north London, while their baby was still in Barnet Hospital, having been born prematurely at 31 weeks.
Theresa Ferguson, a social worker with Haringey Child and Family Services, was allocated the case after concerns were raised over the parents’ ability to care for Lily-Mai.
Barnet Hospital professionals, including neonatal sister Deborah Hodge, were not happy that she was to be transferred to the sole care of her parents as they believed she would be at risk of neglect.
Concerns were raised about Saint George’s mental health, her parenting abilities and her lack of commitment to her daughter, including not visiting her in hospital.
Despite their misgivings, a decision was made on January 22 to allow Lily-Mai to be sent home with close contact with social services.
Police were called to Mr Hurrell and Saint George’s flat the day before Lily-Mai was discharged, over an alleged row between the pair, but no offence was disclosed.
On the same day Ms Ferguson made a referral for a “legal gateway meeting”, one of the options available to social services to take steps to intervene in the care of a baby, but went on annual leave the following day.
Ms O’Neill said: “To describe this timing as unfortunate is perhaps to understate the position.”
A duty social worker visited the family on January 26, while Ms Ferguson made a home visit when she returned to work on January 30, followed by health visitor Alberta Nyantaki on the same day.
Although Ms Nyantaki concluded that Lily-Mai’s needs were being satisfactorily met, she expressed “serious concerns” to Ms Ferguson, who told her the threshold for a child care protection plan had been met because of the couple’s volatility.
The legal process, in the form of a legal gateway meeting, began the following day and Ms Ferguson visited the flat at around 3pm to explain options for a residential placement for the family, or for Mr Hurrell and the baby to go in without Saint George.
The court heard that Saint George swore at the social worker and refused to co-operate, having earlier blamed Lily-Mai in a text message for not letting her sleep.
“She was unable to contain herself in front of a social worker who was there to judge her competence as a mother, and you may have no doubt that she was unable to contain herself a few hours later,” said the prosecutor.
Saint George was granted continued bail ahead of the sentencing hearing which will take place at Wood Green Crown Court.
Haringey Council chief executive Andy Donald and Haringey Council leader, Councillor Peray Ahmet, said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Lily-Mai and our thoughts are with those who loved and cared for her during her short life.
“We would like to say how sorry we are that Lily-Mai did not receive the care and protection she deserved.
“There are clearly lessons to be learned and the Haringey Safeguarding Children Partnership has already commissioned a serious case review from an independent expert which, now the trial proceedings are complete, will be concluded and published.
“We are confident we have now made improvements which could have better protected Lily-Mai and we are absolutely committed to protecting children and young people in our borough.”