The Family Court has ruled that a mother was responsible for her infant son’s injuries.
When the boy was six months old, he suffered “a broken leg and several broken bones in both of his feet”. His mother was unable to provide an explanation for the injuries but suggested that they could have occurred while he was being looked after by her sister.
In response to these injuries, Suffolk County Council launched care proceedings. The boy was placed into foster care and a fact finding hearing was set to determine what had happened.
The mother took her son to see a doctor when she saw that he “had a very swollen right lower leg” one morning. However, because she already had an appointment booked in for that afternoon, she was unable to see her GP straight away. Instead, she waited until her scheduled appointment, when the doctor told her to take the child to accident and emergency immediately. He was not seen at the local hospital until 6:30 that evening.
The two doctors who treated the boy said it was “more likely than not that the injuries all happened at the same time”, however it was “not possible to be conclusive” on that point. A consulting paediatrician said that the fractures were “uncommon in both accidental and non-accidental injury” and were “likely to be the result of forced hyperextension or flexion of the feet”.
Sitting at the Family Court in Ipswich, Her Honour Judge Roberts said the mother’s sister and her partner were “straightforward people who had come to court to assist the court” over the course of the hearing. She did not doubt their statement that “they did nothing and saw nothing which would explain” the injuries.
By contrast, she found the mother “defensive and less open”. Additionally, she did not believe that the mother had tried to take her son to hospital the day before she saw his swollen leg “but could not find anyone who could finance her or assist her to do this”. The judge said that, had this been the case, she “would have mentioned it to the GP or to the police”.
Judge Roberts declared that on the balance of probability, the “only logical conclusion” was that the mother caused the injuries.
She also ruled that the delay in getting the child to a hospital “was not the actions of a reasonable mother”. When the mother encountered difficulty seeing a doctor at the GP’s office, “it would have been more reasonable to find her way to hospital at that point”, the judge said.
Re A (non accidental injuries) is available to read in full here.
Photo by Lydia via Flickr