A 32-year-old father who was found guilty of force-feeding his three-year-old son a mixture of bread and porridge until he died has been jailed for nine years. The man, who cannot not be named for legal reasons following an unprecedented step by the judge, was convicted of manslaughter and child neglect after his son "drowned in his food" at their north-west London home on 27 November 2015.
During his trial at the Old Bailey, the court heard how the father caused "extreme suffering" to the child after pinning him down and pouring food down his throat when he refused to eat.
The London Ambulance Service were called to the defendants' home following reports of an unresponsive child. The three-year-old boy was taken to a north London hospital where he was pronounced dead at approximately 18:30pm on 27 November last year. The father was subsequently arrested.
A post-mortem examination of the child revealed "aspiration of stomach contents" to be the cause of death of the child, with the boy's stomach and lungs filled with the porridge mixture. Prosecutors also said there is evidence that these incidents of force feeding occurred on more than one occasion.
Prosecutor Simon Denison told the court: "On 27 November last year, he was restrained and force-fed in the same way, he suffered in the same way and on that occasion he was rendered unable to choke and unable to breathe, so he inhaled the food he was being made to take.
"His stomach was full and both his lungs were full. His suffering must have been extreme and it must have been obvious to the defendant. It is difficult to comprehend the scene on that afternoon."
The court heard how there was no medical reason for the father to force feed his child and witnesses described seeing him choosing and eating food independently without any problems. There was also evidence the little boy would "kick and struggle" whilst being placed in a prone 'feeding' position by his father and that feeding him in this manner resulted in food going into his nose and eyes and even cause vomiting.
The father has now sentenced to nine years' imprisonment for manslaughter and five years' imprisonment for child neglect – with the sentences to run concurrently. Both the father and the killed boy were granted anonymity by Judge Justice Singh in order to protect the identity of the 32-year-old's other children. The unusual decision to not allow either the suspect or the deceased child to be named is believed to be a first in the British courts.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Partridge, from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, who led the investigation, said: "The circumstances of this case are unusual, distressing and thankfully extremely rare.
"The 'force-feeding' of this young child was unnecessary and directly led to his death. The child was capable of feeding himself and did not have any issues that in any way warranted him being fed by his father in the manner described in court."