A "frightened" cocaine user owed more than £1,000 to a drug dealer and was in a "pressure cooker" when he lost his temper and killed his partner's sick 22-month-old son, a High Court judge has revealed.
Craig Lewis was under "considerable pressure" from the dealer and had been threatened with violence around the time he assaulted Kieron Barley and caused brain damage, said Mrs Justice Eleanor King.
Lewis, who is in his early 30s and comes from Birmingham, was given an eight-year jail term by Judge William Davis QC at a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court last month after admitting manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm.
His partner, Louise Barley, who is in her mid-20s and also from Birmingham, was given a 15-month prison term after admitting child cruelty.
But details of some of the problems Lewis had been facing at the time of Kieron's death in June 2011 has emerged in a ruling published by Mrs Justice Eleanor King following litigation in a civil court.
She had heard evidence at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in Birmingham in early 2013 - following the launch of litigation involving a local authority, Lewis and Barley.
She delivered a ruling in late March 2013 - but that ruling had been kept under wraps until criminal proceedings against Lewis and Barley had run their course.
The reason for the launch of the family court litigation cannot be revealed for legal reasons.
Following the family court hearing, Mrs Justice Eleanor King had decided that Lewis had - on the balance of probabilities - assaulted Kieron on May 28 2011 and June 19 2011.
She also concluded that Barley was "guilty of failing to protect" Kieron to a "very significant and serious degree".
The judge said Kieron had died on June 23 2011 - and on June 6 2011 doctors had revealed that he had cerebral palsy.
"In May and June 2011, (Lewis) was under considerable pressure from his drug dealer. (He) owed over £1,000 and the dealer and his 'heavy' had been to his parents' house and knocked on the door on a couple of occasions. They had also come to his work several times at breaks and had threatened violence. He believed them and told me that sometimes he felt frightened," the judge said in her ruling.
"The pressure from the dealer and his concern about his drug habit was clearly affecting the father's day to day presentation. It was obvious to (Barley) that something was wrong."
She said Barley was also "exceptionally needy" and Lewis feared that his partner might "harm herself".
Mrs Justice Eleanor King added: "The final ingredient to this pressure cooker was (Kieron) himself. Although, undoubtedly, sweet and loveable as he was, this period marked the build-up of the acknowledgement that there was something seriously amiss with (him) developmentally and which culminated in (Barley) being told at a meeting on 6th June 2011 that he had cerebral palsy. All these pressures were going on in the background."
The judge said she had "no idea" what had happened on June 19 2011.
But she added: "I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that something happened whilst (Lewis) was in the bedroom alone with (Kieron).
"He was there, he told me, trying to find clothes, an almost impossible task given the state of the room. Whether in frustration he threw (Kieron) into the cot to free up his hands to find something clean to put on him, rather than putting him in the cot whilst he hunted for clothes (as he told the court), only (he) knows.
"It may be that (Barley) does not herself know what the catalyst was, but she undoubtedly knows that (Lewis) did something to (Kieron) when he was alone in the bedroom."
The judge went on: "She has attempted ever since to cover up and to protect (Lewis) rather than her child."
Mrs Justice Eleanor King said Barley had also covered up Lewis's first attack on Kieron in May 2011. The judge said had Barley intervened at that stage the little boy might still be alive. She said Barley "must always reproach herself".
But Mrs Justice Eleanor King said Barley's failure to protect Kieron had to be "put into the context of her own appalling background and circumstances".
And the judge said she wanted to make clear that Barley and Lewis "loved Kieron deeply".
"This was not a little boy living in a frightening twilight world of routine neglect and abuse," she added.
"There is no evidence that he was subjected to more than the two assaults."
Prosecutors had told Birmingham Crown Court that Lewis said he had been trying to help Kieron walk on June 19 but became frustrated. They said Lewis had told how he swung Kieron and "slammed him down on the ground".
A lawyer representing Lewis had said Lewis had cocaine and alcohol problems with which he had struggled to deal.
A lawyer representing Barley had said Barley had ''poor self-esteem'' and had acted out of loyalty to Lewis, in the ''genuine belief'' he had had nothing to do with the attacks.
Judge Davis had heard that Kieron had been admitted to Birmingham Children's Hospital following the first incident in May 2011 but doctors had failed to spot compression fractures to two vertebrae.
Hospital bosses said they had carried out a review and were satisfied that staff had acted "entirely appropriately".
Birmingham Crown Court heard that Lewis and Barley had lived in Denshaw Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham.
At the time they were sentenced, on April 4, Lewis was 32 and Barley 26.