The High Court has cleared a couple of blame for injuries suffered by one of their two children.
In Re O (Minors), the parents were Brazilians who married in 2005, moving to the UK three years later. They had two children – the oldest, referred to as ‘F’, was born in 2011, while the second, ‘L’, was born last year. Both parents were in their 30s and there had been no previous concerns about their childcare.
In May last year, the youngest child, L, was found to have sustained a number of bone fractures and bruises and the parents sought medical assistance. Both L and F were also found to have a vitamin D deficiency.
The mother could not explain the injuries but had previously expressed concern about her epilepsy, saying she could have a fit while caring for L. She suggested that the father may have caused the bruising by pinching L because he was jealous of the child.
In addition, the possibility that the mother’s anti-epilepsy medication could have affected her own vitamin D levels was discussed.
Sitting as a judge of the High Court, Judge Bond held a fact-finding hearing. The local authority initially requested a ruling that the injuries had been ‘non-accidental’, as a result of the mother’s or father’s actions.
After examination of the evidence medical experts concluded that the injuries had most likely been caused deliberately. However, the last witness in the hearing, a consultant in neurology, gave evidence on the mother’s epilepsy. He claimed the mother could have suffered a ‘partial’ epileptic fit, rather than a full seizure, while looking after the younger child, and could have no recollection of the incident.
As a result, the local authority changed its position, saying the case should be dismissed and L be returned to the care of his parents. L’s legal guardian agreed.
Judge Bond explained:
“Having had time fully to consider the effect of Dr Hillier’s oral evidence and placed that into the context of all the other evidence in the case the Local Authority came to the conclusion that the most likely cause of the clavicle and rib fractures was the occurrence in the mother of a partial fit on the afternoon of 7th April 2013 whilst the father was asleep. In a manner or as the result of a mechanism that cannot be fully explained… L was injured in the process of that partial fit.”
Doubts remained, however, as to the cause of the bruising and the influence of the vitamin D deficiency on bone strength.
L was returned to his parents. The judge noted that:
“These parents were seen by all observers to be loving and competent parents.”
Read the full judgement here.
In December last year, a London family were reunited after a local authority withdrew plans to hold a hearing into whether the mother had caused bone fractures in one of her children.
Photo by Adrian Barnes via Flickr