A MOTHER and father who caused the death of their eight-day-old baby have been jailed for a total of 18 years.

Throughout the course of a long trial at Preston Crown Court, Sophie Nash and her partner Daniel Nolan blamed one another for the ‘catastrophic’ injuries sustained by their baby Ava Grace Nolan in her short life.

On Thursday afternoon they were both found guilty by a jury of causing or allowing the death of a child.

Lancashire Telegraph: Sophie Nash and Daniel Nolan

During a sentencing hearing, little was offered in mitigation for Nolan, who has a relatively low level of offences to his name, many of which were committed as a juvenile with the last being in 2010; while Nash has no previous convictions to her name.

Defending counsel offered only the psychological issues and autism experienced by Nash in way of mitigation, while Nolan's abuse as a child and fear at an impending prison sentence was also offered to the judge, with the fact the force used against Ava wouldn't have caused such injuries had the child been older a mitigating point for both defendants.

Lancashire Telegraph: Ava Grace Nolan

Sentencing the pair at Preston Crown Court on Friday, Mr Justice Spencer said: "I have to sentence you for causing the death of your baby daughter and for allowing her to suffer brain damage and a damaged femur, as well as for child cruelty for failing to allow midwives in to see her.

"You were convicted after a six week trial in which each of you tried to blame each other.

"The injuries to Ava may have been caused in a single episode or apart, but more likely to have been caused apart.

"There was bruising to the back of her head, to the back of her spine and to her brain itself.

"Ava was shaken by one of you.

"She was only eight days old; she was a defenceless baby. It was up to you two to protect her but she paid the price.

"She had only been in your care for four days and in those days you caused her brain damage by shaking, fractured her leg, and further brain damage.

Lancashire Telegraph: Ava Grace Nolan

"All this took place in the background of domestic violence between you and you were more concerned in your day-to-day relationship with each other than you were with your own daughter.

"Neither of you has shown genuine remorse for these offences.

"For three years you set about carrying on with your life together it was only when summons were issued in 2021 that things changed.

"You Daniel Nolan are 30 and were 26 when Ava died. I disregard your previous minor offences.

"I accept you still suffer from the impact of the serious physical abuse you suffered as a child.

"In my judgement your psychological difficulties do not reduce your culpability for any of these offences.

"You were aware of the deterioration in your relationship with Sophie Nash, and of your increasing loss of temper and tendency to violence which put Ava at risk.

"Nor is there any significant mitigation in the circumstances of your relationship with Sophie Nash. You were as bad as each other.

"Your total sentence is 10 years imprisonment."

Lancashire Telegraph: Ava Grace Nolan

On count one of causing the brain damage to Ava there will be a concurrent sentence of 18 months, for causing the fractured femur, there will be a concurrent sentence of three years and a concurrent sentence of 12 months in prison for causing child neglect.

Nolan was sentenced to a total of 10 years.
Mr Justice Spencer added: "For you Sophie Nash, your disabilities do not reduce your culpability.

"Taking into account all your mitigating factors your total is eight years in prison."

On Thursday, Nolan was found guilty of causing or allowing serious physical injury to a child, relating to shocking injuries sustained by Ava in the days before she died.

Sophie Nash was also found guilty of the same charge and an additional count of cruelty to a person under 16.

Preston Crown Court heard how midwives had made several attempts to visit mum Sophie Nash and the baby in the days before her death and that the police had to be called to conduct a welfare check.

During the opening day of their trial before Christmas, Mr David McLachlan QC said that baby Ava had sustained a fractured femur and brain injury in the days before a second fatal head injury occurred.

The jury were told about the sometimes ‘volatile’ and ‘toxic’ relationship between Nash, 31, and Nolan, 30, and of a history of issues which the couple had struggled with.

“It is the prosecution’s case that the defendants - Ava’s father and her mother - were responsible for the injuries that she sustained during her short life and that they are also responsible for neglect that she suffered,” Mr McLachlan said.

“We make it absolutely clear to you that we cannot say who in fact did what.

“We cannot say out of Nash or Nolan, who inflicted the injuries in this case, however the prosecution say that it was one of them and could not have been anyone else.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Ava Grace Nolan

When she was born on August 8, 2017, Ava was how you would expect a ‘fit and healthy’ newborn baby to be, the prosecutor said. She was examined by doctors, nurses and midwives before being discharged after three days.

It was heard a day after arriving home, Nash and Nolan hosted a party and friends and family of the pair attended. On that date a midwife went over to check on the young family, but there was no answer at the door.

At some stage during that afternoon the police were also called after an altercation took place between Nolan - who was holding a frying pan - and his neighbour.

Midwives later attended at the house on the 12th, 13th and 14th and entry were unsuccessful on each of those occasions.

Mr McLachlan QC went on to say that on the 15th another midwife attempted to call the couple. He said: “She got no reply and left a message stating her concern. She stated in clear and simple terms that if the midwives were not allowed access, the matter would be referred to the police for them to conduct a welfare visit.”

Shortly after this contact was made and the midwife was able to conduct a full post-natal examination – leaving content that Ava was happy and healthy, noting only that she had a slight yellow tinge about her, which could have been indicative of jaundice.

Mr McLachlan added: “The prosecution’s case is that shortly after that visit, Ava sustained her first brain injury and also a fractured femur.

“In reality the next day was to be the last day of Ava’s life.”

On the 15th at shortly after 5pm, a police officer conducted a welfare check at the address having been contacted by concerned midwives and once again all seemed fine though it was noted baby Ava was whingeing.

Later that night Nolan called the Burnley Birthing Centre saying that Ava was not feeling well and that her ‘breathing wasn’t right’. The midwife on the phone told Nolan to call an ambulance.

Lancashire Telegraph: Ava Grace Nolan

Paramedics arrived within moments to an unresponsive baby Ava who later stopped breathing.

The nine-day-old was pronounced dead shortly after midnight on August 16.

A Post mortem exam revealed two injuries to Ava’s brain, bruising to her body and a fractured femur.

Medical experts concluded the bleeds to her brain were most likely caused by shaking.

Speaking after the result, the officer who lead the investigation, Det Ch Insp Jill Johnston from Lancashire’s Force Major Investigation Team (FMIT), said: “I am pleased that Nolan and Nash have both been jailed, particularly as both have continued to blame each other and neither has ever accepted any responsibility for the acts of violence that led to baby Ava’s death.

"Ultimately their selfish preoccupation with themselves, combined with their toxic and volatile relationship, has resulted in their baby losing her life.

“I would again like to thank all of the officers and staff who worked on this incredibly complex and emotive case, always with the aim of getting justice for baby Ava, as well as the witnesses who gave evidence and supported this investigation.

“We will continue to work hard with our partners to protect children like baby Ava from harm, to educate and support parents, but ultimately to protect and safeguard children, to be their voice and to prevent tragic cases such as this.”