Mother's minimum jail term for murdering toddler cut by five years

A mother who stamped her toddler daughter to death has had the minimum term she must spend in prison reduced by five years.

Monday, 31st July 2017, 5:19 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:12 pm
Kathryn Smith, 24, was jailed for life in April last year

Kathryn Smith, 24, was jailed for life in April last year following her conviction for murder after the attack on 21-month-old Ayeeshia Jane Smith at the family home in Staffordshire in May 2014.

Sentencing Smith at Birmingham Crown Court, Mrs Justice Andrews said: "You are a devious, manipulative, selfish, young woman who would stop at nothing to get your own way."

She added: ''Ayeeshia was a particularly vulnerable victim, thin and slight of frame, deserving of protection and under the protection of social services for the whole of her short life.

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21-month-old Ayeeshia Jane Smith

''She was killed in her own home by her own mother - that is the grossest breach of trust.''

Ayeeshia collapsed at the flat in Britannia Drive, Burton-upon-Trent, after suffering a fatal heart laceration - a type of injury usually only found in crash victims.

It emerged that she had previously suffered a bleed on the brain from an assault at her mother's hands and a pattern of recent injuries including a huge bruise on her spine.

Ayeeshia, who was taken into care for a period in mid-2013, also had several broken ribs, and other marks and abrasions on her body.

21-month-old Ayeeshia Jane Smith

Smith, of Sandfield Road, Nottingham, denied having anything to do with her daughter's death.

On Monday at the Court of Appeal in London, three judges headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, dismissed Smith's appeal against conviction.

Lord Thomas said that the judge's summing up was "both thorough and fair" and there was "ample" evidence on which the jury could have reached the verdicts they did.

Reducing the minimum term from 24 years to 19 years, he said that the original sentence did not properly reflect the circumstances of the murder, previous conduct, the other offences of which Smith was convicted and the mitigating factors.

Lord Thomas said Smith's counsel argued that too much weight had been given to aggravating features and too little to her youth, immaturity, vulnerability, absence of previous convictions, obvious instances of good and appropriate parenting and the lack of intent to kill.

He added that in some cases, when a parent was convicted of killing his or her child, there would be seriously aggravating factors, such as the use of any weapon against the child or the exposure of the child to hard drugs.

In Smith's case, the trial judge identified as aggravating factors the vulnerability of the child, breach of trust, infliction of considerable force and the fact that the blow which killed was not an isolated incident of violence.

The mitigating factors were the the lack of intention to kill - although this was heavily discounted on the basis that the assault was in anger - Smith's age and lack of maturity.

She concluded that when a balancing exercise was carried out, the aggravating factors significantly outweighed the mitigating factors so they justified a very substantial uplift in the starting point of 15 years.

In that way, the judge reached the minimum term of 24 years, the equivalent, as she stated, of a determinate sentence of 48 years.

Lord Thomas said: "It is important that a judge does bear in mind proportionality.

"In sentencing in such cases where the parent was young and, as in the present case, young in terms of immaturity, ordinarily in the absence of unusual aggravating features accompanied by a lack of mitigating features, a minimum term in excess of 20 years would require very serious aggravating features and very careful reflection before such a sentence was imposed."