NSPCC welcomes conviction of Plymouth pair Christopher and Charlotte Sheldon for assaulting their baby
A LEADING child charity has welcomed the convictions of Christopher and Charlotte Sheldon for the assault and neglect of their four-month-old son.
Previously many child abuse prosecutions have collapsed because it was impossible to identify the individual responsible for specific injuries.
But the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims (Amendment) Act, which came into force last year, makes it harder for abusers to shift the blame to others.
Sarah Allum, team manager at The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) Plymouth, said: "The sad fact is that over the years we have seen many circumstances where two parents or carers have been in court accused of inflicting injuries or even killing their young child, and where they have not been convicted because the law required different levels of proof to decide who inflicted each injury.
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"The NSPCC was central to bringing in the change in the law which enables both parents to be prosecuted for injuries that had been caused while they were caring for the child."
Last year the serving Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said the law would "close a terrible loophole which has, until now, allowed people accused of seriously harming a child or vulnerable adult to escape unpunished."
Ms Allum added: "Previously in cases like this it might have been difficult to prove who had caused each injury. So, for example, if a child had a broken bone you would have to prove exactly where that bone was broken and by whom.
"These parents have been convicted of neglect, which means that the child was injured while in their care."
Ms Allum added: "Babies under the age of one are seven times more likely to be killed than children in other age groups because they are so vulnerable and they can't tell us what is wrong.
"We welcome the change in legislation. Sadly it is a situation that happens quite regularly. But I now think we have measures in place."
A spokeswoman for Plymouth City Council said the authority's children's services department had no contact with the Sheldon family prior to the charges being brought.