Baby death father’s jail term quashed

Roderick Hunter. Pic: Ciaran Donnelly
Roderick Hunter. Pic: Ciaran Donnelly
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A FATHER convicted of neglect after his six-week-old son suffocated under a plastic sheet has had his jail sentence quashed at appeal.

Roderick Hunter, 30, was jailed for 27 months following the death of little Ruaridh McLeod two years ago, at the family home on Ferry Road Avenue.

The former chef pleaded guilty to neglecting his son while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, leaving him unattended for more than six hours and failing to provide for his physical safety and emotional wellbeing.

He was freed on bail pending an appeal against the sentence imposed by Sheriff Isabelle McColl who accepted he was “truly remorseful” saying, “I expect it is something with you every waking moment.”

Judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal have now quashed the prison sentence and ordered him to carry out a three-year community payback order.

Lord Brodie, who heard the appeal with Lord Bracadale, said: “When the sheriff was considering sentence she took the view that there was no appropriate alternative to a custodial sentence.”

The senior judge said that further material provided to them in a background report and information given by his defence counsel over what had been done over alcohol use “rather changes the picture”.

“We have taken the view that there is an appropriate alternative to custody,” said Lord 
Brodie.

He said Hunter would be subject to supervision under the community order with a view to supporting him.

The earlier hearing was told how Hunter had been sipping alcohol secretly from a juice bottle while at work that night, before drinking with a colleague after his shift.

He then bought cider on his way home but stopped at a bar for more drinks.

When he got back, he continued to knock back booze and smoked cannabis. When Ruaridh woke at around 3am, Hunter took him into the living room for a feed so as not to disturb his partner, but had no memory of placing his son on the sofa.

He then went to the toilet before returning to bed, leaving Ruaridh on the sofa.

The boy’s mum, hairdresser Ashleigh McLeod, woke the next morning to find him trapped under a cover used to protect furniture while they decorated their home.

She frantically tried to resuscitate her son while Hunter, now of Nichollfield, called for an ambulance, but Ruaridh – who neighbours described as a “healthy, happy baby” – was already dead.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com