Court reverses earlier ruling on the cause of injuries to baby

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Injuries suffered by a baby must have been caused by her father, a Judge has concluded, despite an earlier ruling to the contrary.

The case concerned a girl then aged four months, who suffered a life-threatening episode last year while in the care of her father. She stopped breathing for six whole minutes and had to be given CPR on the family’s kitchen table by her father. The mother was downstairs at the time.

In hospital, doctors found bruising and retinal haemorrhaging. Luckily for all concerned, the girl made a full recovery.

A fact-finding hearing was held in September. The family’s local authority claimed the father had caused the episode but, explained High Court Judge Mrs Justice Roberts:

“The judge [at the fact-finding hearing] concluded that the local authority had failed to prove its case on the balance of probabilities.”

They successfully appealed. The original judge not carried out a sufficiently thorough analysis of the medical evidence, the Court of Appeal concluded. The case went to the High Court for a fresh fact finding hearing.

In the meantime, the father, who had denied causing the injury, continued to see his daughter during visits supervised by the grandmother. The parents lived separately but were still involved and the mother was convinced of his innocence.

The new hearing stretched over ten days and included new expert medical evidence. The parents suggested their daughter might have a genetic condition that had caused the collapse, but this turned out not to be the case.

The Judge produced a lengthy judgement that considered the available evidence in detail. She stressed that she had started from a “completely clean sheet” and not attempted a reassessment of the previous fact finding hearing.

The medical evidence, the Judge concluded, indicated that the baby had suffered trauma after being deliberately shaken, most likely in a momentary outburst. That could only have been committed by the father – no one else had been with the girl at the time. But there was nothing to suggest he had injured his daughter deliberately.

Mrs Justice Roberts approved the local authority’s plan: the father would undergo therapy in order to work towards possible reintroduction into the household following a risk assessment.

Mrs Justice Roberts concluded:

“The mother told me during the course of her evidence that she had now closed her mind to the possibility that the father could have harmed their child in any way. I hope that she will reflect upon my judgment, my conclusions and the reasons for the findings which I have made.”

She added:

“I accept that her approach as she explained it to me may well have been informed by the fact that she has been in an ongoing relationship with the father for over 12 months in circumstances where a judge has previously absolved him of any role in the harm which befell their much loved daughter in April 2016. My reversal of that position will, I know, be difficult for her to absorb, just as it will be for the father.”

You can read Re D (A Child) here.

Photo by Eirik Refsdal via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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