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Penzance carer Lewis Simmonds is freed after attacking disabled boy

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: December 06, 2012

  • Wendy Smith and her son Shane.

  • Wendy Smith and her son Shane.

A DISTRAUGHT mother believes the justice system has failed her severely disabled son after the carer who attacked him was released from prison on appeal.

Lewis Simmonds was sentenced to 12 weeks' imprisonment after he was filmed appearing to suffocate Shane Smith, a 21-year-old quadriplegic who weighs just 18.5kg.

But days later he was freed on appeal as Judge Jeremy Griggs handed him a suspended sentence and 120 hours of unpaid work.

Speaking after the appeal Shane's mother Wendy said: "I wanted to believe in the justice system but it has failed us. This is not justice for my son."

Simmonds, 21, of Tolver Road, Penzance, was jailed after being filmed grabbing Shane's hair and yanking his head in a "very aggressive manner" while trying to give him a drink.

Ten minutes of footage was shown to Truro Magistrates' Court, shot by the manager of Lidl at Wherrytown on June 1 last year after he became concerned at what was happening between the pair.

The police were called and although he initially denied it, Simmonds later admitted common assault.

"Shane is a gorgeous young man and doesn't deserve this," said Wendy.

She added that during his first three months of employment, Simmonds worked with another carer and underwent regular checks to make sure there were no problems.

The assault has had a profound impact on the family, with Wendy making the decision to move her son away from Penzance.

"We had to get out, Shane couldn't cope. He kept having breath-holding episodes when I took him into town."

The whole saga has also affected Wendy, leaving her suffering from depression and chest pain condition pleurisy.

The appeal at Truro Crown Court on Friday was told by Michael Melville-Shreeve, for the defence, that Simmonds was "utterly unsuitable" to be looking after Shane.

Despite having taken a college course in care, he was still suffering from the death of his own disabled sister and had never been employed previously, the court heard.

"He became locked in a struggle which he should never have been involved in," said Mr Melville-Shreeve.

At the previous hearing on November 26, magistrates were told Simmonds had been taught how to lift Shane and give him a drink when he licked his lips to indicate thirst. He received no formal training in dealing with what could be described as a very difficult role, the court heard.

Commenting on the appeal, Crown Prosecution Service senior crown prosecutor Anita Kennett said: "When I first reviewed the case I realised it should be regarded as a disability hate crime and therefore it was in the public interest to pursue this case.

"The CPS brought this to the attention of the magistrates and the custodial sentence that they imposed reflected their view of the seriousness of Simmonds' behaviour. We understand and respect the reasons why the Crown Court suspended the sentence last Friday."

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