Domestic violence survivor jailed for harming baby criticises ‘unjust’ appeal ruling
"The judges have agreed with what he always told me: that no one will believe me, that I’m crazy, that I should remain silent."
A woman who was jailed for causing or allowing serious harm to her baby has accused the UK courts of “injustice” for ruling against an appeal to her conviction despite accepting that she was a victim of domestic abuse.
The woman, known as “Jenny”, was convicted in 2017 after her baby sustained skull fractures and bleeding on the brain, which she says were caused by her falling when her former partner punched her.
During the initial trial, in which the baby’s father was her co-defendant but was later acquitted on a lesser charge, Jenny told the court that the injuries were caused by her dropping the baby when her cardigan got caught on a cupboard.
But in October of this year, the court of appeal heard that she had written to her legal team from prison to claim that she had actually been knocked to the floor as a result of her former partner punching her, the Guardian reports.
Her legal team filed an application for an appeal against the conviction made on the grounds that her ex had coerced her to lie about how the baby's injuries were sustained during the initial trial.
The court of appeal was told how Jenny’s ex had subjected her to an experience that, according to an expert psychologist who submitted evidence, amounted to torture.
This included him regularly beating her, locking her up, denying her of food and urinating on her.
The court was also presented with fresh evidence from the night of Jenny's arrest: she had been taken to A&E and diagnosed with “post-concussion syndrome” and witnesses had heard her shouting, “You hit me” that night.
Yet on Tuesday, the court ruled against the appeal application.
In their judgement, Lady Justice Macur, Mr Justice Jay and Mr Justice Murray accepted there was “ample independent evidence of domestic violence having occurred within the relationship” and that on the night the child was injured, Jenny was punched.
However, they said that in the context of other evidence, she was not a “convincing witness regarding whether this was the mechanism which led to [the baby’s] injuries.”
According to their judgement, the expert’s report did not provide ground for appeal “but rather an explanation for the applicant’s late disclosure of the domestic violence. However, this explanation is dependent upon the applicant’s accounts, which we found unpersuasive, not least her asserted amnesia about the events … and her selective memory recall.”
“In these circumstances, we are not satisfied that it is either expedient or necessary in the interests of justice to admit the fresh evidence upon which the applicant purports to rely,” the judges said.
Jenny has called the ruling "cowardly" and "unjust", accusing the courts of once again giving her ex power over her.
“The court is scared of what granting the appeal would mean – it would force them to acknowledge not just my story, but that of countless other victims criminalised as a result of abuse,” she said.
“The court has given my abusive ex power over me again. The judges have agreed with what he always told me: that no one will believe me, that I’m crazy, that I should remain silent.”
The team at Appeal, a charity that has been supporting Jenny, spoke of how they were "deeply troubled" by the ruling.
Emma Torr, legal director, said the ruling showed a failure to “properly understand how coercive control impacted on [Jenny's] ability to tell the truth” during the initial trial.
Naima Sakande, deputy director, said it was "inconceivable" that Jenny's new testimony, the fresh evidence from the night of the arrest, and the history of abuse "would not have made a difference to [the trial jury's] decision to convict".
She claimed the court of appeal has "slammed the door" not only on Jenny, but on other victims who were wrongly jailed because they feared speaking up about abuse.
“The authorities say they are committed to ending violence against women,” she said. “But it is evident they are still a long way from understanding the complex issues involved in domestic abuse, including why a woman would delay reporting.”
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, support is available. Women's Aid's 24hr National Freephone Helpline can be reached on 1800 341 900. Other resources can be found on their website right here.