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Friday, 15 June 2018

Mentally ill mother who threw 18-month-old from flats detained in hospital indefinitely

Written by Henry Clare

A mother who was convinced by voices in her head to throw her 18-month-old son from the sixth floor of a block of flats to his death has been given an indefinite hospital order.

Gemma Procter believed she was being told by God to "sacrifice" toddler son Elliot, who suffered fatal injuries at the bottom of the Newcastle House flats (pictured) in the Barkerend area of Bradford, West Yorkshire, in October last year.

In the moments following the incident, witnesses said Procter erupted into tears, before calming down and saying that she had given the boy "to Jesus Christ".

Bradford Crown Court heard on Friday how the 23-year-old was suffering from undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia at the time, with her condition significantly deteriorating following her decision to terminate a pregnancy.

Procter had been due to go on trial for murder, but in April admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, a plea which was accepted by prosecutors on account of her illness.

She and fellow family members broke down in tears on Friday as Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC told her that the incident on October 21 last year was a "tragic" case.

The judge told her: "I am absolutely satisfied that nobody, including yourself, had any concerns or pre-warning that you could or would do what you did.

"Your offending, I am satisfied, was due to this extreme illness. The harm is off the scale, but the culpability is not.

"Nobody thinks that you were ever a bad mother and you were never a bad mother to Elliot."

He added that while the boy was very much the "primary victim" of the offence, Procter herself was nonetheless the "secondary victim" due to the loss of her son.

The judge added: "You will understand that when parents do what sadly and tragically you have done, the public whom I serve, whose interests I must protect, demand explanation."

The court heard how Procter had suffered from depression following the birth of Elliot, which she had initially treated with anti-depressants.

In interviews with doctors, the defendant said her health had gone downhill following the decision to terminate a pregnancy weeks prior to the toddler's death. She also claimed she had witnessed religious experiences and heard the voice of God in her head.

During a police interview following the tragedy, she said she felt compelled by the voices in her head to "sacrifice" the boy, supposedly believing that God would save him.

Prosecutor Kama Melly QC told the court the defendant claimed she was visualising an "ongoing battle between God and the devil" in the weeks leading up to Elliot's death.

Ms Melly said: "There is no issue that Elliot died from catastrophic injuries, suffered when he was thrown out of his own home by Gemma Procter."

Although Procter had admitted taking drugs in the past, including cannabis, doctors concluded that this did not significantly aggravate her condition or lead directly to the offence.

Simon Kealey QC, defending, said Procter had suffered a "sudden deterioration" in her health which could not have been foreseen.

In a statement which was read to court, the defendant's mother said Procter had been a "brilliant mum", adding: "I think she needs treatment. I love Gemma and want to make sure that she gets treatment."

The court heard how Procter had been seen by social services in the past, but not in relation to any mental health issues.

It was reasserted by the judge that no blame could be attached to social services due to the sudden nature of the mother's deterioration.

Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Bryar, of West Yorkshire Police, said the force's thoughts "remain with Elliot's family".

She added: "We know that they will probably never come to terms with losing a child in such sad and awful circumstances, but we hope this outcome at court today will provide them with some closure.

"A Serious Case Review will now follow to assess in detail any contact Gemma had with support agencies.

"We will fully co-operate with this process as it is in the interests of everyone that learning is gained from such a tragic incident."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Pictured (c) Danny Lawson / PA Wire.