A CRUEL babysitter has been jailed for forcing a four-year-old girl into a freezer.
Cowardly Stuart Kitt even tried to pin the blame for the attack on the child’s mother.
But a jury at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today found the scaffolder guilty of the “cruel and wilful” attack, which saw the girl, now eight, inflicted with permanent burn marks to the skin.
During the four-day trial, the young victim broke down in tears as she was forced to give evidence to a court via video link.
Today Sheriff Kenneth Maciver sent Kitt to prison for four years and three months for what he described as a “nasty and vicious assault”.
Kitt was convicted of dragging the girl by her ankles and placing her arms in the freezer cabinet, to her severe injury and permanent disfigurement.
He was also found guilty of two charges of failing to appear in court.
The 33-year-old was acting as the girl’s babysitter at an address in the city on the night in October 2007 when the incident happened.
After the verdict was delivered, Fiscal depute Ian Wallace said: “According to information from the girl’s father, in the weeks afterwards she suffered nightmares and often became very upset.
Mr Wallace said this had “eased” and medics now described the girl as “flourishing”.
Sheriff Maciver told the court he had enough information about the child’s welfare and evidence from doctors to sentence Kitt straight away.
He gave Kitt three years for the attack on the girl and 15 months for twice failing to appear at court.
He described Kitt’s crime as a “nasty and vicious assault”.
He said: “The word cruel has been used and I think it’s fair. My main concern in sentencing is what type of effect this assault will have.”
The sheriff said it was fortunate for all concerned that the psychological effects had subsided.
He said the girl was left with a permanent mark on her leg. But he said that although the burn would remain visible it was “relatively small”.
Defence agent Duncan Hughes said Kitt had been employed as a scaffolder, but was currently out of work.
He had a child of his own, who was 16, said the agent. He had a lengthy schedule of previous convictions, said Mr Hughes, but none of them related to violence towards children.
During the trial, Mr Wallace asked the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons: “How was it that you hurt your arms?”
The girl said: “He put me in the freezer and they burned.”
“He just lifted me up and put me in. “
She also said: “It was really sore.”
The girl said Kitt claimed he would kill anyone she told about the incident.
Mr Wallace asked her: “Why didn’t you tell anyone what happened?”
She replied: “I was scared.”
He asked: “Did Stuart say anything to you about telling anyone?”
The girl answered: “He said he would kill the person who I told.”
Mr Hughes also questioned the girl via video link.
He asked her if she remembered speaking to police officers about the incident, to which she replied no.
He said: “What Stuart says happened is your mum put your arms in the freezer, is that what happened?”
The girl replied ‘no’.
Mr Hughes’ questioning had to stop at one point as the girl began crying.
The girl’s mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was asked by Mr Hughes if she had put the girl’s arms into the freezer.
She said the accusation was “totally wrong”.
The mother said she was working at a pub when the injuries were inflicted. When she got home she thought the marks on her daughter were an allergic reaction to new cushions.
She called NHS 24 and applied bandages and cream to the injured areas.
But two days later she was told her daughter needed urgent treatment. The mother said it was at that point her daughter said Kitt had harmed her.
Jurors were shown pictures of injuries to the infant caused by putting her arms in the freezer.
The pictures were taken at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, on October 12, 2007.
One showed white markings on the girl’s throat.
Others showed views of her left foot, her lower back, her bottom.
As well as pictures of the girl’s injuries, jurors saw images of a Hotpoint freezer in the kitchen of a flat.
Despite the evidence against him, Kitt continued to try to blame the mother, saying in his evidence: “I would never do that to a kid.”
A consultant paediatrician told the trial that the girl had needed “psychological input” since the incident and “will probably carry this all her life”.
Before today’s verdict was delivered, Sheriff Kenneth Maciver told the jury there was sufficient evidence in law to convict Kitt of the crime.
The sheriff said they should consider the Crown’s contention that the evidence given in court by the schoolgirl should be accepted as “being truthful and reliable”.
But the judge also told jurors they should consider Kitt’s evidence.
Sheriff Maciver said doctors had given evidence at the trial, claiming nature of the injuries meant the child’s skin was in “prolonged” contact with the cold surface of the freezer.
The Crown relied on this evidence to show that “this was a cruel and wilful act”, said the sheriff.