A 23-YEAR-OLD man who left his seven-month-old nephew brain injured and profoundly disabled after shaking him vigorously has been jailed for 28 months.
Burnley Crown Court heard how Syed Raza, of Hutton Drive, Burnley, had been looking after the infant for up to 16 hours a day after the death of the child’s mother, his sister.
The victim, Sarfraz Hussain Shah, had been born three months prematurely by Caesarian section while his mother was very ill and had not been allowed home until he was four months old because of his health difficulties and needed a lot of care.
The hearing was told how Raza, who came to this country in December 2009, had sat by his sister’s bedside constantly before she died from cancer in January, last year. He had taken on the sole care of Sarfraz after the baby’s father, Imtiaz Hussain, went back to work, devoted himself to the child and bonded with him even though he had no experience of child care.
However in June last year the defendant shook the little boy in panic to stop him choking and help him breathe after a feed. The court was told Raza carried on shaking the child and he acknowledged that led to his collapse. A month before, a health worker had advised him not to shake Sarfraz after she had seen him do it to encourage the baby to feed from a bottle.
The victim suffered severe and initially life-threatening injuries. He had an extensive brain injury and retinal bleeding in both eyes. A top medic described him as now profoundly disabled, no longer able to fix his eyes on people and suspected his vision was poor. The tot did not move as much as a baby his age would, did not smile in response to stimuli, had stiff limbs, was fed by a tube in his nose and was given diazepam to help him relax.
Doctors found no evidence to suggest the injuries were as a result of a generalised assault and there were no older injuries to suggest serial abuse.
The court was told the victim’s father, who had two other children by his late wife, found it difficult to accept the defendant had done what he did. He described the infant as blind, said it was not known if he would ever walk and he needed 24 hour-a-day care. Mr Hussain had forgiven his brother-in-law “as is the way in my faith”.
Raza, who had been in custody since the offence and faces deportation after his sentence, had earlier admitted child cruelty.
Sentencing, Judge Graham Knowles QC said the defendant would have to live for the rest of his life with what he had done. He said Sarfraz’s family would never know the child or the man he would otherwise have been.
He continued: “To say this case is tragic is an understatement and for them and for Sarfraz it’s not a case, it’s their life.”
Mr Roderick Priestley (prosecuting) said Sarfraz’s father got a call at work from the defendant telling him his son was extremely ill and had stopped breathing.
Paramedics arrived to find Raza distraught and trying to give the child CPR. They took over, cleared his airway and ventilated him. The child, being sick from his mouth and nose, was taken to hospital by ambulance.
Mr Priestley said the defendant was hysterical and inconsolable. The child was examined by several consultants. Raza was later arrested and said he loved his sister’s children. He had no previous convictions.
Mr Alan Wolstenholme (defending) said he was devastated by what had happened. He said: “A 16-hour-day for a young man who has never looked after children in a parental way before is an onerous physical and emotional responsibility.”
The barrister added: “Between January and June he rendered what might be described as considerable and almost heroic care of Sarfraz.”