A babysitter shook a five-month old baby so violently she suffered catastrophic and life-changing brain injuries.
Parents Sophie Reed and Luke Taylor had asked their family friend Stephen Carl Smith, 28, to look after their daughter while they went on a date night.
But while they were out, Smith violently shook Bayleigh-Lee Taylor.
She has been left with cerebral palsy, epilepsy causing seizures and spasms, feeding and mobility issues, delayed development, poor sleep, and the almost total loss of sight.
Her mum is now her full-time carer, and she will never be able to attend a regular school because she needs one-to-one care.
Stephen Carl Smith, 28, has been jailed for ten years for leaving his friend’s babe brain damaged after shaking the five-month-old so violently she lost her sight
Smith denied shaking the child but was found guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent following a trial at Swansea Crown Court.
On August 18, 2016, the couple asked their friend Smith to look after their child while they went out on a ‘date night’.
Both keen anglers, they opted to go sea-fishing together for a couple of hours.
Smith, who had known Mr Taylor for years and who had babysat for the couple before, agreed to do look after Bayleigh-Lee if he could have a lift home at the end of the night.
When the parents arrived back at their home in Merlin’s Bridge, Pembrokeshire, they found Bayleigh-Lee ‘propped up on a chair’ and apparently sleeping.
They went into the kitchen but there was a sudden ‘piercing cry’ from the other room.
They rushed back to the infant and picked her up but she was ‘limp and lifeless’.
Stephen Rees, prosecuting, said the emergency services were called and the baby was taken first to Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen, then to a special unit in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
Detailed examinations showed the infant had suffered ‘non-accidental head trauma’ which resulted in ‘life-changing and catastrophic’ brain injuries.
Bayleigh-Lee, photographed here aged three and a half, was just five months old when Smith shook her so violently she was left with catastrophic brain injuries
She is now back living at home at receiving physio, medication, and intensive care, but will be unable to attend a regular school because she requires one-to-one care.
In a statement read to court her parents described how their life had been ‘turned upside down’ in the months after the incident, with social services initially preventing them from seeing Bayleigh-Lee or their other two children.
They said their child would never now lead the life she could have because of what Smith did, adding: ‘We will always be proud of the things she achieves, and we will always be proud of the strong-hearted person she will become.’
John Hipkin, for Smith, acknowledged the ‘devastating consequences’ for Bayleigh-Lee and her parents, and said given his instructions there was little he could say on his client’s behalf.
Reporting restrictions which were in place during the trial have now been lifted so details can be made public.
Judge Peter Heywood said that during the trial the court had heard evidence from Dr Peter Richards, a leading consultant paediatric neurosurgeon, into the injuries the baby received and their likely causes.
Her said the evidence had been that Bayleigh-Lee’s injuries were the result of bleeding on the brain likely caused by a ‘momentary loss of control’ by the person charged with caring for the baby rather than any long-term or sustained assault.
The judge said it was not known exactly what had happened on the night in question but it was clear ‘something went disastrously wrong’ and force was used which lead to ‘catastrophic injuries’.
Judge Heywood sentenced Smith, of Hywel Street, Haverfordwest, to 10 years – he will serve half that period in custody before being released on licence.
Speaking after Smith was jailed for 10 years, Bayleigh-Lee’s parents, said they hoped that the case would highlight the issue of ‘baby shaking’.
Dad Luke, 29, said: ‘We have spent three-years not really being able to speak about what happened.
‘We now have the result we wanted, and the result Bayleigh-Lee needed.
‘We want people to know, to be aware, of this type of thing – it is not really talked about.’
Mum Sophie, aged 27, who is now a full-time carer for Bayleigh-Lee, described the pain of the enforced period of separation from her children following the incident – including ‘not being there’ for Bayleigh-Lee ‘when she needed me most’.
She said the family had been left not knowing exactly what had happened because Smith continues to deny any wrong-doing.
She said: ‘I don’t think we will ever got an apology. I don’t think he is sorry.’