The mother of the murdered toddler Star Hobson has had her eight-year prison sentence for causing or allowing her daughter’s death extended to 12 years.
Star Hobson was just sixteen months old when she was murdered by her mother’s girlfriend, Savannah Brockhill.
In December last year at Bradford Crown Court, Brockhill was jailed for life with a minimum of 25 years behind bars whilst her mother, Frankie Smith, was also found guilty of causing or allowing her daughter’s death and given an eight-year jail term.
At the time that sentence was described as unduly lenient, and this morning the appeal court heard that there had been several ‘aggravating factors’ including an eleven-minute delay before an ambulance had been called.
Three senior judges agreed that this, combined with the child’s vulnerability, warranted a more severe jail term and have now extended Frankie Smith’s sentence to 12 years in jail.
Due to the young age of Ms. Smith, who is just twenty herself, she will serve her sentence in a Young Offender’s Institution.
During today’s appeal representatives for the Attorney General argued that, in the initial trial, too much importance had been given to mitigating factors.
Representatives pointed to the extent of Brockhill’s abuse of the child and said that there was evidence Smith had been a neglectful and cruel mother, even before entering into a relationship with her child’s killer.
They also argued that Smith’s youth, immaturity and low IQ did not affect her decision-making in this situation.
In Smith’s defense, Zafar Ali QC countered that claims the mother was without remorse were “incorrect” and the case was “permeated by domestic abuse”.
Smith broke down numerous times during the trial, reports The Telegraph and Argus, and apologised in court for her conduct.
As the verdict was given, Dame Victoria Sharp, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, said: “Star’s treatment at the hands of both Brockhill and Smith was harrowing and deeply disturbing.
“We have viewed images which showed many injuries to Star’s body; they were deeply distressing images of physical assaults, punishments, mistreatment and neglect to Star.
“Smith accepted she mistreated Star and her behaviour accounted to cruelty. The maximum charge for this is 10 years.
“There were at least eight instances identified, each captured on video. Having seen these images, we do not accept these are the full picture of this.
“There was a consistent pattern of cruelty by Smith towards her daughter in the months before her death.
“Smith should have foreseen what happened to Star by what she had seen happen previously when she returned from Brockhill with serious injuries.”
She picked out four points as to why the sentence passed was too lenient: prolonged incidents of cruelty; degradation of the victim; deliberate disregard of Star; and a failure to protect Star from risk.
“In mitigation, there was a mismatch by the Judge. She said Smith’s low IQ and immaturity did not excuse her behaviour, but nothing was said as to why it would materially reduce her culpability.
“The Judge referred to Brockhill’s violence towards Smith which would make it more difficult for her to report problems. But the Judge earlier found this had been exaggerated and that Smith had chosen to remain in this relationship for her own selfish purposes.
“There was nothing linking the abuse to Smith with her abuse to Star.
“As for Smith’s lack of previous convictions, this carries very little weight in this case, as on her own admission she could have been indicted for a serious of offences for child cruelty.
“The final point, to which very significant weight was attached, the loss of her daughter.
“We can never say the point is irrelevant, but what we can say is in this case, where Smith treated Star with such neglect and indifference, the Judge was wrong to attach so much weight to this.”
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