The designer of a cot in which a seven-month-old baby “choked to death” has been jailed by a judge who told him that he should “bear the brunt” of the responsibility for the rest of his life.
Craig Williams, 37, wiped away a tear at Leeds Crown Court after hearing how the parents of Oscar Abbey found his lifeless body hanging out of the cot he had sold them around two months earlier.
A judge said that the defendant, of Park View Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had shown a “flagrant disregard” for the public by continuing to sell beds made with the same design even after the boy’s death.
Prosecutor John Elvidge QC said that Williams, who has three children of his own, had demonstrated “an utterly indifferent attitude towards the safety of small children, even after he had been visited by police in relation to Oscar’s death”.
The court heard how he had sold the cot through his Playtime Beds Ltd company to the Abbey family for £655, including delivery, and had reassured the boy’s mother that it was safe for children of all ages.
Discussing Oscar’s death, Mr Elvidge said: “During the course of the night, he wriggled his body through the holes at the front of his cot bed.
“His head was too big to fit through. In effect, he choked to death. He was starved of oxygen.”
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Oscar’s father, Charlie Abbey, 24, told how the last time he saw his son alive was when he gave him a “kiss goodnight”.
Discussing how he held Oscar in his arms and realised he had passed away when he noticed his “cloudy eyes and dry lips” on the morning of November 3 2016, he said he constantly asked himself: “Why me? Why do I have to see my son in a hospital bed, dead and lifeless, and be unable to take him home?”
Williams had been on trial for manslaughter by gross negligence, but a jury was directed to return a not guilty verdict after he admitted failing to discharge an employer’s general duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and a count of fraud.
Jailing Williams on Friday for three years and four months, Judge Martin Spencer said: “You may not be guilty of manslaughter, but I find that you bear a significant responsibility for Oscar’s death.
“You should bear the brunt of that responsibility for the rest of your life.”
The judge said that had another child died in a bed sold after the boy’s death, Williams would “almost certainly” have been guilty of manslaughter, adding: “It is pure fortune that no other child did die, and that is no thanks to you or Mr Bruce.”
Bruce, of Kimberworth Park Road, Rotherham, was jailed for six months on Friday.
Jason Pitter QC, defending Williams, said that he was inspired to get involved in the bed-making industry by his experience with one of his children with a “significant developmental disability”.
Following the sentencing, Detective Superintendent Nigel Costello, of North Yorkshire Police, described Williams’ actions as “deplorable”.
He added: “I think he has been very deceitful, very dishonest, very callous, very selfish, profit-driven, and although he suggests that he was naive, that has been shown not to be the case.”