The father of an eight month-old baby has accepted responsibility for injuries he sustained by the youngster last September.
In Re ED, the boy, referred to as ‘E’, was born in July last year. All was well until September, when the baby was rushed to hospital after falling sick and suffering a seizure. A CT scan uncovered both an acute subdural haemorrhage and evidence of cranial bleeding. Multiple haemorrhages were also discovered in the baby’s eyes.
E went to suffer a further series of seizures but following treatment gradually recovered. When eventually discharged from hospital he was briefly placed in foster care, and then with his grandmother, before finally being returned to his mother.
The injuries had been sustained while the baby was in the care of his father, ‘FL’ the previous evening. Both parents told the hospital and later the police that the baby had briefly choked while being bottle-fed. Panicked, the father had jiggled him on his knee, patted on his back and the baby had then appeared to be fine.
The mother reported that the father had been “white as a ghost” when she returned to the house. As the baby was not in obvious distress at that point, neither parent sought medical attention.
Sitting in the Family Court at Northampton, His Honour Judge Hughes held a fact finding into responsibility for the injuries. He noted medical evidence that the amount of force that would have required to cause the injuries found on E had to have been:
“…significantly in excess of the forces involved in ordinary or even clumsy handling of an infant.”
When FL gave evidence at the hearing, he admitted that his earlier account of the events had not been “entirely true”. He explained his had choked badly on his milk during a feed, begun to splutter and vomit, then went “floppy and changed colour”. His eyes glazed over.
Panicked, FL shook the baby, to “wake him up”. E vomited again and appeared to get better. But he did not tell ‘MZ’, E’s mother, the truth when she returned to the house. The Judge explained:
“He said that she would not have been happy with him and would have shouted at him.”
Judge Hughes was very critical of the father’s failure to give a truthful account of the events until appearing on the witness stand.
“It has to be emphasised that [his evidence in court] was the first proper account he has given in relation to the matter and the proceedings, to the considerable misery of the mother, have been going on for eight months or so.”
The Judge continued:
“He was challenged, and challenged fairly forcibly, as to why he had not said anything to police or indeed the experts or indeed the treating clinicians and he emphasised he was scared about losing his family and about people thinking that he was a monster. He was scared about losing everything he loved.”
However, Judge Hughes accepted that the father was well-intentioned and loved his son.
“He presents as an unaggressive, mild mannered man. He does not drink but accepted that he was prone to panicking. He said he is a panicky man. He was challenged by the guardian’s Counsel as to why he had not been truthful from the start and perhaps his answer illuminates where the truth lies in relation to this case:
“I couldn’t face having hurt my baby. I haven’t been brave enough.” ”
FL had displayed a lack of courage by hiding the truth for a long period but had finally “done the right thing”. He was “clearly devastated”, said the Judge,and wanted to reunite the family.
The Judge ruled that the injuries had been accidentally inflicted by the father on a son he loved in a moment of panic.
“By his actions, he has undoubtedly put his own fear first and broke the bonds of trust that are necessary in relation to the discharge of his responsibility as a parent.”
All that remained, said Judge Hughes, was “a child centred conclusion to these proceedings”
Read the judgement here.
Photo by maury.mccown via Flickr