A father accused of accidentally suffocating his baby daughter is to be reunited with her twin sister following a family court ruling.
The girl, referred to as ‘L’, died at the age of just 16 weeks Lancashire County Council claimed the family had injured or neglected her, and placed both her twin, ‘S’, and the father’s older daughter, ‘K’ with foster carers.
The authority later changed their allegations.
Sitting at the Family Court in Manchester, Mr Justice Peter Jackson explained:
“Having tested the evidence, the local authority no longer pursues allegations of inflicted injury, and in particular any allegation of assault or deliberate suffocation. … It…alleges that L probably died as a result of her father lying on her when he was sleeping on the same sofa, or that he recklessly put her to sleep on the sofa in such a way that she rolled and could not breathe.”
However, the parents were cleared of any involved in L’s death.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson described the parents as “witnesses whose accounts can always be accepted without question”.
They are, she said, “acutely concerned to present themselves to the outside world as good parents.”
He added: “It is easy to understand how defenceless a young couple must feel in these circumstances, but these parents are notably reluctant to make concessions.”
Nevertheless, the judge could not accept the local authority’s claim that the father had place L in her rocker after accidentally suffocating her.
While the family’s sleeping arrangements that night had been “obviously unwise”, he declared:
“For the father to have placed L in her rocker, knowing that she was moribund, and then gone to bed would be extremely out of character. There is no reliable evidence that he did this. My conclusion is that we simply do not know when or why L died. Nor has it been proved that either of the parents knows.”
The authority had failed to supply sufficient evidence for any responsibility to be determined, the judge continued:
“A finding against the parents would be based on speculation or suspicion, which would be impermissible and wrong.”
K, now aged 3, had previously been the subject of care proceedings. In November 2011, when she was just 8 months old, her mother had taken her to hospital where she was found to have a fractured skull. She was placed in foster care but sent home after ten months following a court ruling. The parents claimed that K had fallen down the stairs.
At the same hearing, Mr Justice Peter Jackson rejected renewed claims about the parents’ alleged responsibility for K’s death. The authority claimed the parents knew how she had been injured and were hiding the truth.
But, said the judge:
“With some hesitation I find that the parents’ account of events can be accepted. I cannot conclude that it is more probable than not that they are concealing a known incident.”
He dismissed the authority’s application to take either child into care.
Read the full judgement here.