Aaron Harley James: Manslaughter charge against stepdad accused of Jaylen Troy Priest dropped by Crown

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Prosecutors have sensationally dropped a charge against a man who was accused of causing the death of his young stepson, with a judge stating the evidence indicated the toddler’s death was an “awful tragedy”.

Aaron Harley James was accused of unlawfully killing his 16-month-old stepson Jaylen Troy Priest back on December 20, 2021 at the family home in Burpengary, in Queensland’s Moreton Bay region.

Mr James pleaded not guilty on the first day of his scheduled Supreme Court trial in Brisbane on Tuesday,

But the planned proceedings took a sudden twist after the Crown said it was discontinuing with the charge against Mr James.

The sudden twist means Mr James will be released after spending some two years behind bars on remand.

The court was told the events happened on a single afternoon Mr James returned home from work.

“It was a wet day, there was water on a hard floor and Jaylen was running at speed,” Justice Callaghan said.

“He slipped, he hit his head and he was found to have suffered a fractured skull and brain bleed.”

Judge Callaghan said Mr James phoned triple-0 upon learning of Jaylen’s fall.

Everyone in the house were interviewed by police at length and there is no suggestion anyone did anything harmful to Jaylen, he said.

Justice Callaghan also said there was no history of violence or any mistreatment of children, including Jaylen, in the household.

“All the evidence indicates there was a loving relationship between the defendant and Jaylen,” he said.

Judge Callaghan said there were many other questions that could be asked of the case, including “how it got to this point”.

“They’re really beyond the scope of this explanation,” he told the jury.

“I thought you were entitled to that, entitled to be satisfied the decision to discontinue these proceedings was on the basis of that summary.”

The court was told the evidence suggested Jaylen’s death was an “awful tragedy”.

“It is at least the case this tragedy will not be compounded by the conviction of an innocent man,” Justice Callaghan said.

More to come