March 4, 2020 4.08 pm This story is over 18 months old

Month-old baby killed in Ingoldmells shared bed tragedy

The pair have avoided jail

A one-month-old baby suffocated after sharing a pull-out caravan bed with his father, who had returned from a night out, a court heard.

James Wilks, 33, had spent the day watching the Grand National in a bar before he and his partner Emma Rutt, 41, continued to drink with friends through to the early hours of the morning, Lincoln Crown Court heard.

Claire Fraser, prosecuting, said that baby Reggie Wilks should then have been placed in his carry cot to sleep but instead was put on the pull-out bed with his father.

The following morning Reggie was found lifeless at the couple’s seaside caravan in Ingoldmells, near Skegness.

Baby Reggie was looked after by a female friend during the evening before they eventually went back to their own caravan around 2am, the court was told.

Miss Fraser said: “Significant amounts of alcohol were consumed over the day. It is not possible to say how much alcohol everyone had, but it was to cause the death of Reggie that night.

“Reggie was put in his carry cot and carried by the defendants back to their caravan. When they got back James Wilks put himself in the double pull-out bed and was sleeping with Reggie beside him.”

Emma Rutt fell asleep elsewhere in the caravan.

Miss Fraser said: “Emma Rutt had been told of the dangers of overlaying. She failed to ensure he was placed in his cot, leaving him with James Wilks who was drunk and not capable of looking after Reggie.

“The next morning Reggie was found. He was already dead. The cause of death was suffocation by overlaying.”

James Wilks later described going to sleep with Reggie in the bed next to him. The next day Reggie was lifeless.

Emma Rutt denied that either of them was drunk.

James Wilks, 33, and Emma Rutt, 41, both of Oaktree Avenue, Gainsborough, each admitted a charge of child cruelty as a result of the incident at Ingoldmells on April 15, 2018.

The court was told that both have been left devastated by what happened and have since suffered significant psychiatric problems.

Michael Cranmer-Brown, for Wilks, said: “The effect on him has been enormous. He is a broken man. His whole life has been turned upside down. He is devastated. Whatever the court does to him pales into insignificance to what he has done to himself.”

Allison Summers, for Rutt, said she had pleaded guilty and urged the judge to take into consideration her background which was detailed in reports prepared for the court.

Wilks and Rutt were each given a 16 month jail sentence suspended for two years.

Judge Simon Hirst, passing sentence, told the couple: “I have no doubt at all that both of you drank far too much than was proper for you to be looking after a tiny baby.

“The case against both of you is that James Wilks co-slept with a baby when you were so intoxicated rather than putting Reggie into his cot where he would be safe. Emma Rutt you effectively allowed this to happen.”

The judge said it was clear that both of them had suffered significant psychiatric problems.

He added: “This case is a tragedy. Whatever sentence I impose you have a life sentence in any event. You two have to live with what you have done for the rest of your lives. In these circumstances it seems to me proper to suspend the sentence.”

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