The Court of Appeal has rejected a mother’s claim that she had not harmed her infant son.
Her son, identified as ‘Z’ in the judgment, was taken to hospital for a suspected stomach infection. It turned out that Z had the anti-psychotic drug olanzapine in his blood. This drug is commonly used to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, and has “some sedative effects and can alter consciousness”. Despite it being unavailable without a prescription, no close relatives of Z had one.
Once the drug had been discovered, all four of the mother’s children were taken away from her. During the subsequent care proceedings, a fact finding hearing was held to determine who was responsible. In the hearing, medical experts explained how to gauge the length of time such a drug had been in someone’s blood based on concentration levels. They said that, given the estimated time that the drug was introduced into Z, the mother was the most likely culprit. Therefore, the initial judge made a finding of fact to this effect.
The mother sought to challenge that ruling in the Court of Appeal. She claimed that the judge had “wrongly conducted a calculation for the time of the likely dose which purported to identify the mother as the sole perpetrator”.
However, Lord Justice Ryder disagreed. He said that the first judge had not made such a calculation, but a “proper inference drawn from the available factual evidence and the un-contradicted scientific opinion evidence”.
He ruled that the original ruling had been “unassailable” and promptly dismissed the mother’s appeal.
To read BK-S (Children) (Expert Evidence and Probability) v Hampshire County Council & Ors in full, click here.