Judge rules child’s injuries ‘non-accidental’

Family Law|August 5th 2015

A Family Court judge has ruled that the injuries suffered by an infant boy were “non-accidental”.

The boy, ‘R’, was born in 2012 but died in 2013. While a cause of death could not be determined, medical examiners who performed a post-mortem found a fracture on one of his ribs. Based on how much the fracture had healed, they estimated that it occurred between two and two and half months prior to the death. The local authority sought a ruling on how the injury happened and if anyone was responsible.

At the Family Court, Mr Justice Moor noted that the R’s father “played no part in his life” and his mother had “a chronic history of substance and alcohol misuse”. But, the judge added, she had since taken steps to deal with these issues.

When R was discharged from hospital following his birth, he was immediately placed into foster care. But in February 2013, he was sent to live with another couple. The mother, who lived with her brother, was allowed a significant amount of unsupervised time with R.

Not long after they became his carers, the new foster couple took R to see a doctor because he had been crying constantly and was unable to eat because of chest pain. Before they saw the doctor, however, he settled down so a full medical investigation was not carried out.

Later that month, the mother withdrew her consent for R to be kept in foster care so he was returned to her. One morning, she “woke up to find him lifeless” and he could not be resuscitated.

Mr Justice Moor heard medical evidence about the cause of R’s rib fracture. Using the standard of proof required in family law cases – the balance of probabilities – he said that it was “hard to see how it could be accidental in the absence of a cogent explanation”. As there was no such explanation from any of the four potential perpetrators, the mother, R’s uncle and the foster couple, he had to rule that it was a “non-accidental injury”.

After he heard oral evidence from the four people in question, the judge found that the foster carers “were entirely honest with the court” and that their “evidence was entirely consistent”. Therefore he ruled them out as perpetrators. However, the mother and uncle were not so convincing. Mr Justice Moor “found the evidence of both unsatisfactory” and consequently could not say with any degree of certainty which of them had caused R’s injury.

He concluded that, based on the available evidence, the rib fracture was not premeditated but “a momentary loss of control”.

To read the judgment in full, click here.

Photo by Fuschia Foot via Flickr

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