‘Child cruelty’ mum whose baby died has jail term cut

�An alcoholic mum who downed bottles of wine while her baby son died abandoned and alone won a cut in her prison sentence at the Court of Appeal.

Helen Ryan, 39, of Dolphin Approach, Romford, had drunk two bottles when she left five-month-old Jack to go to buy a third.

He was later found by his distraught policeman dad, Michael Vincent, wedged between a wall and a bed at the couple’s home.

In February, the mother-of-one pleaded guilty to cruelty to the child and was jailed for two years at Basildon Crown Court in April.

But this week three senior judges slashed the “manifestly excessive” sentence to 16 months.


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Mr Justice Sweeney told the court that Ryan had a drink problem, was suffering from post-natal depression and had recently moved house, where she knew few people. She relied on alcohol to dispel her loneliness, hiding her empty bottles to keep her drinking secret.

On the day of Jack’s death Mr Vincent went to work and shortly afterwards, Ryan paid her first visit to a supermarket with the baby to buy wine, then returned two hours later, again with the child, for a second.

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But she made her third visit alone and, around an hour-and-a-half later, neighbours heard the baby crying inside the house.

Knocks on the door produced no answer, but two hours later Ryan was banging on neighbours’ doors, begging for help to find the lost child.

At risk

The baby was discovered by Mr Vincent, who was called home from work.

In her guilty plea, Ryan accepted that she was an alcoholic and had put the baby at risk by drinking heavily when alone with him.

Her lawyers appealed against the sentence, asking the judges to suspend it, or cut its length.

It had been a single incident of neglect and her partner stood by her and didn’t want to see her locked up, the judges were told.

Rejecting the plea for a suspended sentence, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “This appellant had a drink problem that she must have appreciated in itself put Jack at risk when he was in her care alone and she was drinking.

“It was certainly not a simple incident of neglect and, although we stress not causing Jack’s death, nevertheless resulted in it.”

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