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Jailed father of shaken baby files appeal against 14-year sentence

A father who was jailed for 14 years after being found guilty of shaking his partner's infant and leaving him severely brain damaged, has filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
31 July 2017, 3:17pm
The former football player used to look after his partner's baby in the mornings
The former football player used to look after his partner's baby in the mornings
A father who was jailed for 14 years earlier this month after being found guilty of shaking his partner's infant son and leaving him severely brain damaged, has filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence with his lawyers arguing, amongst other things, that there were alternative medical explanations for the baby's injuries.

The 46-page appeal application was filed by lawyers Franco Debono, Marion Camilleri and Amadeus Cachia who have stepped in to defend footballer Rotimi Williams Akande. On 7 July this year, a jury had found Akande guilty of the attempted murder and the actual grievous bodily harm of 15-month-old Maleek Olowoshile. Akande was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Before jailing the Nigerian, the court had heard how Akande, at the time an Mqabba FC player, had struck up a relationship with Abiola Olowoshile Abiola, after she broke up with her boyfriend, who was also Maleek 's father.

Abiola and her baby moved into Akande’s Mellieha apartment in February 2013. Akande used to look after his partner's baby in the mornings.

On 15 April, the baby was left at home with Akande who – according to the police – had shaken him to stop him from crying. The police said that the baby had been shaken so violently that he suffered internal bleeding. Not having yet realised the extent of the damage, Akande had placed the baby back in bed, but at noon, he called his girlfriend to tell her that he had tried to wake up the baby and that it wasn’t moving.



An ambulance had rushed the baby to Mater Dei Hospital, where he received life-saving neurosurgery. Although the baby survived the ordeal, he suffered permanent brain damage and remains in a persistent vegetative state, unaware of his surroundings.



The court had been told that Akande had violently shaken the baby before, as the child had been treated in hospital only 12 days earlier for two broken ribs, bruises on his chest, bleeding in his retinas and slight internal bleeding – all symptoms of ‘shaken baby syndrome.’

But in the appeal application, Akande's lawyers contend that he would play with the child by tossing it into the air and catching it, saying “the baby used to laugh a lot,” when he did so. There were other instances when the baby had fallen off the bed whilst the mother was showering or had been taken to a doctor because he was bleeding from the nose and mouth.

On 3 April 2013, the appellant said, he had heard the child coughing and found him vomiting from the mouth and nose. “At the time the appellant hit him on the chest to reduce the pressure of the vomiting.” The child had been treated in hospital and later returned home.

Twelve days later, the appellant had fed the child rice and left him watching TV. When he returned three hours later, he noticed that the child was asleep with his eyes half-closed, making a snoring sound. The child's body was cold. Akande maintains that on that occasion, he had not touched the child apart from putting him on his side before calling the emergency services.

Akande's application attempts to cast doubt on the conclusions reached by court medical expert Dr Mario Scerri, saying that a number of alternative possible causes were not considered, as the mother herself had admitted to having forgot to tell him that the baby had fallen off the bed in the days leading up to the incident, and that his injuries were compatible with a fall.

The mother also “considered it very strange that in the eight days that the child was hospitalised, no one noticed that he had fractured ribs,” the application reads.

It goes on to point out that a medical study in 1998 had concluded that “more than 24 hours and sometimes up to 72 hours or more” could elapse between the trauma and the emergence of symptoms in 25% of shaking cases.

A review of medical literature on the subject suggested that the numerous studies linking shaken baby syndrome to retinal bleeds were unreliable, it added.

A retrial was requested on the grounds that the jury had reached an illegal verdict.

Akande's lawyers maintain that the court had found him guilty of both attempted wilful homicide and grievous bodily harm, convictions which required different criminal intents.

The appeal application asked the court to acquit the man of the conviction or vary the punishment because the man was also a first time offender.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...