Wrongly convicted father granted care of children again

A father wrongly convicted of causing grievous bodily harm and cruelty against his baby daughter has been told he can care for his children again.

Ben Butler of south London was accused of shaking his baby in 2007 after taking her to hospital where doctors diagnosed bleeding on the brain.

He was convicted at Croydon Crown Court in March 2009 and jailed for 18 months but the conviction was later quashed.

His children were taken from their home to be raised by other people.

On Friday, Mrs Justice Hogg sanctioned the return of Ellie and her sibling to their parents' care.

She said Mr Butler, 32, and Ellie's mother, Jennie Gray, had shown "tenacity and courage".

"It is seldom that I see a 'happy end' in public law proceedings. It is a joy for me to oversee the return of a child to her parents," the judge said.

Conviction overturned

Ellie, aged about seven weeks, was taken to St Helier Hospital in south London in February 2007 by Mr Butler when he noticed that she had gone limp and was gasping for air.

Doctors there diagnosed bleeding on the brain, bleeding in the eye and swelling of brain tissue - seen as indicators of a shaken baby who has been deliberately injured.

It was noticed Ellie had injuries on her forehead and hand, consistent with burns.

Further inquiries revealed that, just over a week before admission, she had rolled off a pillow and come into contact with a radiator while in her father's care.

Mr Butler insisted he had not hurt his daughter and Ms Gray supported him.

Ellie was later transferred to St Thomas's Hospital in central London, where a different team of doctors said her head injury had in fact been caused at birth.

She went on to make a full recovery.

However, the couple were arrested and Mr Butler was convicted of grievous bodily harm and cruelty at Croydon Crown Court in March 2009.

He was jailed for 18 months and had to share a cell with a convicted child abuser.

'Resilient and determined'

The conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in June 2010 after Lord Justice Moses ruled the trial judge's summing-up to the jury was defective and the conviction was unsafe.

But Mr Butler and Ms Gray faced a fresh battle for proper access to both daughters, involving proving his innocence in family court proceedings all over again.

Ellie had been placed with her maternal grandparents after she was removed into the care of the London borough of Sutton.

The other child was placed with foster parents.

Mr Butler had only been given supervised access to Ellie for two hours, twice a year, at a social services contact centre. Ms Gray was allowed access six times a year.

The family court case was heard by Mrs Justice Hogg over seven weeks starting in May.

The judge said it was "more likely than not" that throat abnormalities related to Ellie's voicebox had caused her collapse and eye bleeding.

She surmised the bleeding on the brain was caused by the "inexperienced" father's panicked actions in seeking to resuscitate his daughter.

She ruled Mr Butler was not culpable for the burns Ellie suffered earlier from the radiator and there was no evidence he had acted "maliciously, deliberately or intentionally" to cause her injury.

The judge observed: "The parents have weathered the storm. They have each been resilient and determined, and shown tenacity and courage."

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