Star Hobson’s mother has sentence increased by Court of Appeal
The mother of Star Hobson has had her prison sentence for causing or allowing the toddler’s death increased by four years at the Court of Appeal.
Frankie Smith, 20, was jailed at Bradford Crown Court in December last year for her role in the death of her daughter, who was killed by Smith’s former partner, Savannah Brockhill.
Star, 16 months old, died after she was taken to hospital in September 2020, having suffered “utterly catastrophic” and “unsurvivable” injuries at Brockhill’s hands.
Brockhill, a bouncer and security guard, was found guilty of Star’s murder, while Smith was found guilty of causing or allowing her death and handed an eight-year prison sentence.
Smith’s sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General’s Office and increased to 12 years in detention by senior judges on Tuesday.
Smith, of Wesley Place, Halifax Road, Keighley, appeared at the hearing in London via video-link from HMP New Hall, wearing a grey top.
Tom Little QC, for the Attorney General’s Office, said the original judge had found Smith to be a “neglectful and cruel parent who thought only of her own interests”.
He argued that there were aggravating parts of Smith’s crime which were not taken into account and that the sentencing judge, Mrs Justice Lambert, had wrongly lowered the number of years she should serve.
Mr Little said: “The judge placed the most weight on the loss of Star as a part of mitigation… there can be no doubt about that.”
He added: “This was not a case where the offender was so racked with guilt and pleaded guilty at the very first opportunity, remorseful from the outset about the loss, to be a significant point in the offender’s favour.”
The barrister said the sentencing judge also did not refer to Star’s vulnerability, or to the at least 11-minute delay in calling 999 after she suffered the fatal injuries.
At the trial, prosecutors said the injuries that caused Star’s death involved extensive damage to her abdominal cavity “caused by a severe and forceful blow or blows, either in the form of punching, stamping or kicking to the abdomen”.
The circumstances of Star’s treatment at the hands of both of them over a long period of time are harrowing and deeply disturbing
On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal heard that Star’s fatal injuries were caused by a blow with a level of force “consistent with a road traffic accident”, causing a major blood vessel to rupture and blood to leak into her abdomen.
Over several months, the toddler also suffered other injuries including numerous rib fractures, the fracture and refracture of her leg and a skull fracture.
Zafar Ali QC, for Smith, said it was “simply incorrect” to say his client had not been remorseful, saying she had been “extremely remorseful” during the trial.
Mr Ali said: “She expressly said how sorry she was for her cruelty and neglect.”
He added: “This case was permeated by domestic violence – she was physically abused by Brockwell on several occasions.”
In written arguments, the barrister said that Smith was unaware of the extent of the injuries Brockhill had inflicted on the toddler before her murder, adding that she was a victim of domestic violence, immature and of low intelligence.
Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Sweeney and Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, said Star was the victim of “pointless and self-absorbed rows” between Smith and Brockhill.
She said: “The circumstances of Star’s treatment at the hands of both of them over a long period of time are harrowing and deeply disturbing.
“Star was caught up in the crossfire in the relationship between the two women.”
The judges found that the sentencing judge was wrong to reduce Smith’s sentence in the way she did based on the mitigation, including of Smith losing her daughter.
“On the facts of this case, where Miss Smith had treated Star with such cruelty… the judge was wrong to identify this as a mitigating feature and then give it the weight she did.”
Dame Victoria continued: “There was little, if any, to be said in mitigation.
“In our judgment no less a sentence than 12 years would meet the justice of this case.”
The judge said Star was “particularly vulnerable due to her very young age”, and that “self-evidently, Miss Smith was in a position of trust”.
Speaking after the judgment, Attorney General Suella Braverman QC said: “This is a tragic and extremely upsetting case and my thoughts are with all those who loved Star Hobson.
“This case involved prolonged cruelty and neglect, deliberate disregard and a failure to take any steps to protect or seek assistance for her before and after her murder.
“No sentence can reverse this tragedy, but I welcome the decision to reflect the gravity of this offending by increasing the sentence today.”
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