Baby dies while parents on a 24-hour drinking binge

Matthew Neil (left) and Kim Smart-Neil (right) have avoided prosecution for the manslaughter of their baby Freddie Neil after the couple went on a drinking binge and forgot where they left Freddie. Photo Facebook
Matthew Neil (left) and Kim Smart-Neil (right) have avoided prosecution for the manslaughter of their baby Freddie Neil after the couple went on a drinking binge and forgot where they left Freddie. Photo Facebook

The parents of a month-old baby who died after they went on a 24-hour Christmas drinking binge and didn't know where he was have escaped prosecution.

Freddie Neil was found lying on the floor wedged between a wall and bed in his older brother's room and pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

His parents Matthew Neil and Kim Smart-Neil were arrested and charged with neglect and manslaughter.

But the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK later decided to drop charges after deciding there was not enough evidence.

It is understood the couple are no longer together and Ms Smart-Neil has moved away.

Details of the baby's shocking death have been revealed after a serious case review.

It found his mother and alcoholic father spent the 24 hours before his death drinking 'a large quantity of alcohol' in a pub and with friends at their home in Blackpool, UK.

The mother, aged 32, last remembered attending to Freddie at around 5am and her husband, a local DJ, stayed up with the baby until around 6am when their friends left.

An inquest heard that Neil, 34, who was 'extremely tired and intoxicated', remembered taking Freddie to bed but could not say how he came to be in their other son's room.

He was woken around noon the following day - Boxing Day 2014 - by their other son crying at the stair-gate with his nappy off and excrement on the floor.

Mr Neil - who had turned down help for his alcoholism weeks earlier - changed the boy's nappy before noticing Freddie wasn't in his basket.

After searching the house, he then found him unresponsive and partially wrapped in blankets on the floor between a wall and bed in the other son's room, but neither parent could say how he got there.

The father tried CPR but the baby was pronounced dead after being taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Coroner Alan Wilson, who recorded an open verdict, heard that Freddie had bronchitis and it was impossible to say what exactly caused his death.

A pathologist said she believed his death was caused largely by unsafe sleeping arrangements.

Mr Neil denied being drunk and said he remembered putting Freddie to bed in his Moses basket, but admitted he did not know how he ended up in a different room.

Speaking after the report findings, he said: 'It was Christmas and we both had more than we should've, but neither of us was inebriated.

'I believe I had an [epileptic] fit. There's no way a four-week-old baby can make it from our room into [our other son]'s room on his own. It's a sheer impossibility.

'One of us had to have moved him but when I have a fit I can't remember half an hour before or after.

'I can't remember taking him in there, so that's the most viable explanation. It's the most sensible one.'

Neil, who was found to be twice the legal drink drive limit, and his partner were arrested on suspicion of neglect and manslaughter, but were released without charge in June.

The report by the Blackpool Safeguarding Children Board also found there was nothing authorities involved with Freddie's family could have done to prevent or predict his death.

Mr Neil was an 'admitted alcoholic' who told hospital staff he was drinking 'seven plus pints per day'.

It found alcohol was a feature of Freddie's short life but said there was no evidence it posed a problem until that night, with his parents providing a 'relatively safe environment'.

Mr Neil twice turned up at his other son's nursery smelling of alcohol during Freddie's short life, although staff did not believe him to be 'under the influence', the report said.

He did not seek help from drug and alcohol services until after Freddie's death despite advice from his GP, it added.

The CPS said: 'We considered the criminal charge of wilful neglect and the file was carefully reviewed according to the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

'The CPS concluded, following consultation with the investigating police officers, that there was insufficient evidence to charge either person with this offence.'

The serious case review was carried out by specialist Amanda Clarke, who probed the services involved with Freddie's family, including their GP and nursery, the ambulance and midwifery service, and health visitors.

She made a number of recommendations on how to prevent further deaths of this nature.

They include launching a campaign to warn of the dangers of drinking alcohol while looking after children, improving assessments to identify families' needs, working with expectant and new fathers to offer advice and support, and introducing a compulsory safe sleep assessment to be carried out by health professionals.

- Daily Mail

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 24 Mar 2017 13:05:51 Processing Time: 552ms