A lady who perpetrated the demise of a baby boy she intended to adopt has been sentenced to imprisonment for a minimum of 18 years.
In January 2021, Laura Castle shook 13-month-old Leiland-James Corkill at her residence in Barrow, Cumbria.
While she had already confessed to manslaughter, the Preston Crown Court found her guilty of murder and child cruelty. Her husband, Scott Castle, was acquitted of causing or permitting the death of the child.
At the hearing, clad in somber black attire, Laura Castle wept audibly, especially when the statements from Leiland-James’ birth mother, Laura Corkill, were read out. Laura Corkill referred to her son’s killer as a “monster.”
Mr. Justice Jeremy Baker declared that Castle was selfish in her desire to keep Leiland-James, even though she struggled to form a bond with the baby. The judge lamented the tragedy that the Castle couple did not terminate the adoption.
Leiland-James joined the Castle family in August 2020 when he was eight months old, having been taken into the care of Cumbria County Council from birth.
During the trial, it was revealed that the couple had difficulty forming a bond with the child. Castle sent disparaging messages to her husband while he was at work, using offensive language and derogatory terms to describe the baby.
On January 6, 2021, at around 08:15 GMT, Castle called emergency services to report that Leiland-James was unconscious and breathing irregularly after falling from the sofa.
Leiland-James passed away the following day at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. The doctors there were highly suspicious of Laura Castle’s account.
During the opening day of the trial, Castle admitted to manslaughter, claiming she did not intend to kill him. She stated that she “lost her mind” as the baby was crying and she shook him in an attempt to silence him, accidentally hitting his head against the sofa’s arm.
Neighbours reported hearing a thud but no crying from the baby. Prosecutors argued that Castle “lost her temper” when Leiland-James spat out his food.
Pathologists concluded that a “severe” amount of force would have been required to cause the fatal brain injuries, and they believed his head had been struck against a hard surface.
The court learned that Cumbria County Council was aware of the bonding issues but had no knowledge that Castle was using physical chastisement, as there were no visible marks or bruises on the child. A review of the placement was scheduled for early January, but Leiland-James was killed before that could happen.
Prosecutor Rachel Faux highlighted Laura Castle’s “lack of candour” regarding her use of physical chastisement as an aggravating factor. If the council had known about her views, they would have never placed Leiland-James with her.
In a statement read during the court proceedings, Ms. Corkill expressed her devastation at her son’s fate, stating that he was taken from her to avoid emotional and physical harm, only to suffer the same at the hands of his “adoptive” mother.
Charlotte Day, who had fostered Leiland-James from the age of two months until he was placed with the Castles, spoke about her family’s heartbreak and her doubts about ever trusting prospective adopters again.
David McLachlan QC, mitigating, portrayed Castle as a broken and isolated individual in prison, facing the end of her marriage. However, he acknowledged that the only innocent party in this tragedy was Leiland-James, and Castle bore responsibility for her actions.
The defense argued that Castle entered the adoption process with good intentions but faced challenges with her husband’s night shifts and the difficulties brought about by lockdowns.
The judge characterized Castle’s expectations for the adoption as unrealistic and pointed out that she had deliberately lied about her attitude towards physical chastisement. Had the council known the truth, they would have never entrusted the care of a vulnerable child to her.
The judge noted that the full extent of what happened on January 6 might never be known, as Castle had downplayed the violence she inflicted on Leiland-James. The external injuries to the baby’s face and ear were consistent with slapping, pinching, and prodding, while the wounds to his lip and mouth were caused by Castle’s actions in anger.
Laura Castle was also sentenced to 21 months for the child cruelty charge, to be served concurrently. She will not be eligible for parole for 17 years.