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19 December 2012, 18:28
A County Durham man who shook his girlfriend's poorly baby son to death while she went shopping has been jailed for 7 and a half years.
Slater Sharkey, ill with a cold, had suffered a range of bruises in the run-up to his death aged just 13 months in December 2010.
33 year old Richard Morgan, from Tantobie, was not the boy's father and was in sole charge of Slater when the fatal injury was inflicted.
He was convicted of manslaughter on Tuesday following a trial lasting over four weeks.
Mr Justice King told him as he passed sentence at Newcastle Crown Court.
"Your killing of Slater was the result primarily of your forceful shaking of the child, in a momentary loss of control, at a time when you had become frustrated by his whingeing and crying due to him in all likelihood being separated from his mother.
Whatever the circumstances leading you to becoming frustrated at the child's behaviour, nothing justifies Slater becoming treated in this way.''
The judge accepted Morgan did not intend to inflict serious harm when he shook the baby, and that he had been a good father to his own children.
Bruising inflicted prior to the boy's death could not be proved to have been caused by Morgan, the judge said, but there was "clear evidence'' of assaults over a 24-hour period leading up to it.
Slater's mother, Rachel Peacock, who had been living with Morgan for two months, was cleared by a jury of causing or allowing her son's death, but she was convicted of a cruelty charge.
That related to an incident a month before Slater's death when she did not take him to hospital in defiance of her GP's advice.
She was handed a 12-month community order by Mr Justice King, who said the single episode of neglect had not contributed to her son's death.