A FATHER who threw his baby son into a river "slipped through the net" of mental health services, a judge has said as he sentenced him to a hospital order.

Zak Bennett-Eko, 23, was given the hospital order, which he may never be well enough to be released from, on Tuesday after being found guilty of the manslaughter by diminished responsibility of his son Zakari following a six-day trial.

He said he believed the 11-month-old was turning into the devil when he threw him into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, in the afternoon of September 11 last year.

Psychiatrist Dr John Crosby told the hearing Bennett-Eko, a paranoid schizophrenic, should "never have been discharged" from community mental health care services in the years before his son's death.

Sentencing him at the Nightingale Court at The Lowry theatre in Salford, Judge Mr Justice Fraser said: "It is not the only failure of the system in your case.

"You seem to have slipped through the net in terms of care for your mental illness, which in hindsight was much more serious than was realised at the time."

The judge said he "unhesitatingly" concluded that Bennett-Eko was dangerous.

He made a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act, with restrictions under section 41 of the act meaning the question of whether Bennett-Eko was ever released would be a matter for the Secretary of State.

He added: "In your case, and this is accepted by your treating clinicians, there is the prospect that you may never be well enough to be released."

The court heard Bennett-Eko, who was too unwell to appear for the trial or the sentencing, was previously diagnosed with psychosis related to cannabis and sectioned at the age of 15 but discharged into the care of his GP in 2017.

Dr Crosby, his treating clinician at Ashworth secure hospital, said the defendant's learning disability meant he would not fully have understood the effect not taking his medication and using cannabis would have on his mental health.

He said: "He should never have been discharged from community mental health services.

"I think it is a big ask for somebody with such complex mental health problems, at such a young age, to be managed by a general practitioner."

Peter Wright QC, defending, said Bennett-Eko had tried to seek help for his mental health problems six times in the weeks leading up to Zakari's death.

The court heard on September 8 he went to North Manchester General Hospital and asked to be sectioned but left before he could be treated.

Mr Justice Fraser said: "You expressly asked to be sectioned.

"The notes of one of those visits positively states 'no emergency, no urgency' and you were again simply referred back to your GP."

In a statement read to the court, Zakari's mother Emma Blood, said: "I will never understand why, nor will I get over this."

Miss Blood, who was eight months pregnant with Bennett-Eko's daughter at the time of their son's death, added: "I can only hope, in time, the man responsible will come to understand the unimaginable pain his actions have caused."

On September 11, Bennett-Eko had taken his son out in his pushchair at about 4pm while Miss Blood was upstairs in their home in River Street, Radcliffe.

A couple near to the river watched as Eko picked up his son out of the pram. He then swung the baby backwards and forwards before throwing baby Zakari over a fence and into the river.

A number of members of the public tried to rescue baby Zakari from the water but could not get him due to the steep river bank. Zakari travelled about a mile down the river and was in the water for over an hour before emergency services were able to retrieve him.

Eko then went to the nearby Lock Keeper pub and sat at a table whilst emergency services scrambled to the scene in an attempt to save the baby's life.

Eko made some admissions to another customer in the pub and as a result, officers attended a short time later and arrested him.

Zakari was pronounced dead in hospital after being rescued by emergency services at about 5.15pm

In a statement, baby Zakari's family said: "We'd like to thank all of those involved in this investigation who have helped us to get some justice for Zakari. He will never be forgotten."

Senior Investigating Officer, Duncan Thorpe, from GMP's Major Incident Team, said: "This was an absolutely horrific incident that shocked the whole community and left members of the public who witnessed it extremely upset.

"Baby Zakari had only been with us for 11 months and his life ended after being thrown into a fast-moving river.

"Our thoughts are with the baby's family who have had to come to terms with the loss of their precious baby."