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Caroline Liggins’ Compassionate Success: Securing a Suspended Sentence for a Man Who Ended His Mother’s Suffering

During the Covid lockdown in June 2021 the man called police to confess to smothering his 89-year-old mother who suffered from severe dementia, kidney failure, and osteoporosis before attempting to take his own life. “Last night was just the final straw. That is not living. That is not my brave, beautiful, bright mum who gave up everything for her boys. In the end, I have given her release” he said.

The Defendant, who had given up his career ten years earlier to be his mother’s full-time carer, was then accused of long-term elder abuse after autopsy examinations revealed the presence of historic bone fractures. In response, Caroline Liggins and the team obtained expert medical evidence proving that the historic injuries were in fact fragility fractures caused by advanced osteoporosis, and resulting in the allegation of long-term abuse being withdrawn.

The Defence instructed a senior forensic psychiatrist who confirmed that the Defendant was experiencing a mental health breakdown at the time of his mother’s death arising from the pressures of single-handedly providing full-time care to his mother in the midst of a covid lockdown as she was becoming increasingly unwell – without specialist training, support or equipment. The Defence psychiatric evidence of his condition prompted the Prosecution to accept a lesser plea to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

At the sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Thursday 28 March, HHJ Durran said the matter before her as “a tragic case” and described the Defendant’s actions as “an act of mercy”. She accepted Defence evidence that the Defendant’s ability to understand the nature of his conduct, form a rational judgment and exercise self-control was substantially impaired by his severely depressed state.

The starting point for sentencing for manslaughter cases of this nature is seven years’ imprisonment. However, following Defence submissions the Judge was persuaded to take the unusual step of sparing the Defendant immediate prison time, instead imposing a two-year suspended sentence.

Commenting on a case Caroline Liggins Partner, in Hodge Jones & Allen’s Criminal Defence Team said: “After years of fighting, I’m delighted that our lovely soft-spoken client – who loved his Mum right up to the end – was shown the sympathy he so rightly deserved and was spared prison. It was an unusual and exceptional result, and the only just outcome to such a tragic case.”

Caroline would like to thank Katy Thorne KC of Doughty Street Chambers, Marie Spenwyn of Libertas Chambers and Emily McNally for all their hard work on this case.

Caroline Liggins is a leader in the field of youth justice. She is Head of the Youth Team at HJA and Chair of the Youth Practitioners Association. In addition to her thought leadership in youth justice matters, Caroline is also regularly instructed in the defence of the most serious criminal allegations, whether involving adults, children or vulnerable individuals. She has acted in the full spectrum of criminal cases including murder, sexual offences, possession of firearms, fraud and drugs offences.

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