Stepfather, Jacob Crouch guilty of murdering baby ‘viciously’

The stepfather of a 10-month-old infant who was subjected to a "culture of cruelty" has been convicted of homicide. Jacob Crouch suffered at least 39 rib fractures and died as a result of Craig Crouch's "vicious assault," the Derby Crown Court heard.

Jacob died "alone in his crib" on 30 December 2020 near Swadlincote, Derbyshire, after enduring a "living hell." His mother, Gemma Barton, was exonerated of homicide charges. However, she was judged guilty of causing or permitting a child's death.

On Friday, both will be sentenced by the same court. During the trial, the prosecution claimed that Jacob's injuries were the result of being stamped on or kicked. 

They reported that neither parent provided him with the care he needed or deserved or sought medical care for him.

Barton, 33, met Crouch, 39, when she was four months pregnant with Jacob; after only one month, they referred to Jacob as "our little boy."

On 17 February 2020, Jacob was born healthy with Crouch listed as his father on the birth certificate.

From the age of four months, according to prosecutor Mary Prior KC, he suffered "regular bruising for at least six months" and was referred to as "the demon" in a text message.

The jury was informed that Jacob endured "repeated physical maltreatment" in the days preceding his death in Linton.

Crouch, a forklift operator from Donisthorpe Lane, Moira, close to Swadlincote, was also found guilty of three charges of child cruelty.

He had testified that he had nothing to do with Jacob's injuries. Barton denied causing Jacob's injuries and, when queried by prosecutors who was responsible, stated, "It was not me, so that leaves Craig."

Both Crouch and Barton implied that Jacob may have injured himself when asked by police how he was injured. However, experts told the court that it was "inconceivable" that the injuries were self-inflicted.

Dr. Michael Biggs, a forensic pathologist, testified that he would expect to find injuries similar to Jacob's in victims of vehicle accidents or multi-story falls.

After the verdict, Det Insp Paul Bullock of the East Midlands Special Operations Regional Policing Unit stated, "Jacob Crouch was born into a culture of cruelty where both of the people he should have been able to trust most allowed him to endure assault after assault.

As a result of the severe and repeated assaults, Jacob would have endured considerable pain for the majority of his brief existence.

After the verdict, Detective Inspector Paul Bullock of the East Midlands Special Operations Regional Policing Unit mentioned that it was evident from text messages, audio recordings and videos that were discovered on Gemma Barton and Craig Crouch's phones that they were both equally responsible for the cruelty that was inflicted on baby Jacob.

The spokesperson stated that agencies had assisted the police in examining the circumstances surrounding Jacob's death, and that new "Keeping Babies Safe" guidance had been developed through policy and training modifications.

The DDSCP stated there were no intentions to release the review's findings.

The spokesperson added, "The DDSCP is mandated to share the review report with the National Safeguarding Review Panel, which concurred with the partnership's decision not to initiate a local child safeguarding practice review in this instance."