A mother whose two-year-old son died after drinking plant food intended for a cannabis crop smiled unashamedly after a judge spared her jail yesterday.
Giving Lauren Booth a suspended sentence, Judge Colin Burn said she would have to live with the consequences of her ‘cataclysmic’ neglect ‘long after any sentence has been served’.
But far from showing remorse, the 24-year-old smiled as she left court and jokingly asked photographers: ‘Are you going to follow me all the way home?’
Lauren Booth, right, was growing cannabis in her home in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and was asleep when her son Aaron, left, drank the toxic liquid
Booth, of Huddersfield, was convicted of child cruelty in February. She had left a bottle of pH Up plant feed on a windowsill within easy reach of her ‘inquisitive and adventurous’ toddler Aaron. Its childproof lid had not been screwed on properly.
In November 2010, Booth, who was still in bed with her then boyfriend Shaun Williams after midday, was woken by a bang and found her son had collapsed and was gasping for breath.
The trial heard that the toddler, who had not been fed and was probably extremely hungry and thirsty, may have thought the plant feed was a children’s Fruit Shoot drink.
Aaron was taken to hospital and underwent surgery to remove his stomach and part of his oesophagus, but his windpipe had been burned away by the potassium hydroxide contained in the toxic plant feed. He died 11 days later.
Prosecutor Thomas Storey said that when Aaron’s father Mohammed Khan visited the hospital, Booth seemed more concerned about moving her cannabis plants than her son’s condition.
He recounted: ‘She told him that she and her partner had been trying to make some money by growing skunk [a type of cannabis] in the house, almost seeming annoyed by the involvement of the police because they were going to have to find somewhere else to grow [the drugs].’
Yesterday the judge said: ‘I’m bound to say that Aaron’s death was a prolonged and frankly horrible one. There is no other way to describe it. And it was preventable.’
He told Booth: ‘Your poor judgment led to fatal consequences. The evidence that this liquid was used for growing cannabis was strong. You should not even have allowed the liquid to be brought into the same house as Aaron.
‘By failing to move the bottle, or supervise him, you allowed this terrible event to happen.’
A jury had heard that police found material relating to cannabis-growing on a computer in the cluttered house, but Aaron’s bedroom was ‘curiously empty’. The prosecution said Mr Williams had time to remove any plants after the child went to hospital.
Booth, who now has a daughter aged almost one whom she is allowed to visit in foster care, denies that cannabis was grown in the house. She was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
The judge said a pre-sentence report stated that Booth had been a loving mother to Aaron and no purpose would be served by her going to jail.
But Mr Khan, 33, said outside Bradford Crown Court yesterday: ‘It’s sickening. I’m shocked. Where’s the justice for Aaron? I wanted justice for him. I expected Lauren to be sent to jail. But now she can just carry on with her life as if Aaron never existed.
‘I don’t believe she has ever shown remorse. She’s got her life but Aaron hasn’t got his. She should pay the consequences.’
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