Christopher and Charlotte Sheldon jailed for assault and neglect of their baby in Plymouth
A MOTHER and father have each been jailed for three years for repeatedly beating their baby, breaking his bones and leaving him covered in bruises.
Christopher and Charlotte Sheldon assaulted their defenceless son Ethan at least three times in the first four months of his life, Plymouth Crown Court heard.
They also failed in their duty as parents to seek medical attention for his injuries.
He suffered three broken ribs, a fractured collarbone, a fractured ankle and a broken big toe. Ethan also had 20 bruises over his body – which doctors concluded could not have been caused accidentally.
A leading children's charity said after the case that Ethan had "suffered a horrific catalogue of abuse".
Sarah Allum, team manager at The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) Plymouth, said: "Ethan Sheldon, a defenceless child, suffered at the hands of the people who should have been giving him love, care and protection – his parents."
Christopher, aged 32, of Bridgetown, Totnes, and Charlotte Sheldon, aged 24, of Sefton Avenue, Lipson, had denied two counts of child cruelty in the months after Ethan was born.
But they were found guilty after a two-week trial last month.
The jury was told Ethan was repeatedly struck with a long thin implement such as a piece of cutlery or a length of flex and squeezed so hard that his ribs broke.
The injuries, which happened on at least three occasions, were only uncovered after a routine call by a health visitor to the family home in October 2010, when Ethan was four months old.
Call centre worker Christopher and shop assistant Charlotte ended up blaming each other.
Judge Paul Darlow said the jury had convicted them of causing the injuries and for not seeking the medical attention the "injuries clearly merited".
He added: "The evidence put before the jury showed that during the first four months of his life he was subjected to clear and obvious violence. Various parts of his body were subjected to varied and serious acts of violence over a short period of time."
Judge Darlow added that before, during and after the discovery of the injuries they showed more concern for their own relationship rather than for Ethan – "the most helpless of the three of you".
He said: "I do not suggest for a moment that the injuries were the result of sadism or any wish to harm Ethan.
"You are both relatively young and have been punished to a certain extent by the loss of Ethan."
He said that the pair would pose a risk to children upon their release and said the specialist agencies would have to be involved in the future.
Malcolm Clark, for Christopher Sheldon, said he had suffered from mental illness and depression. He said he would find it harder to cope than others in prison.
Mr Clark added that he had never exhibited violent behaviour towards children before.
He said: "For the rest of his life there will be someone in the background making sure checks are in place if he has any unsupervised contact with children."
Nick Lewin, for Charlotte Sheldon, said that Ethan would have no long-term ill effects from his injuries. He added, save for the shoulder blade, he would have been in "very little pain and discomfort".
Mr Lewin said any acts against Ethan were "spontaneous" and said she had a lot of responsibility at the time as her husband tackled depression.
Mrs Allum said after the case: "This sentence is midway between the two to five year sentencing guidelines so it could have been higher. But we are pleased the judge acknowledged that agencies should be involved with the couple following their release on licence.
"The ordeal Ethan was subjected to highlights the vulnerability of children under the age of one who are eight times more likely to be killed than children in other age groups.
"Many infants do not survive such a horrific catalogue of abuse."