The Court of Appeal has overturned a judge’s refusal to find that a child had been deliberately injured.
Re M-B concerned a baby boy referred to as ‘A’, who had died at the age of just ten months in June last year. The precise cause of his death was not determined but several fractures to his leg bones were discovered during a post mortem. As a result, the authorities issued emergency protection orders for the baby’s three older siblings. Issued under Section 44 of the Children Act 1989, these orders allow children thought to be at risk to be removed from their homes and taken into immediate care.
When the mother gave birth to another child in March, he too was taken into care. Meanwhile, the family’s local council sought a finding that the injuries suffered by A had been inflicted deliberately. The Judge declined to do either, but granted the authority permission to appeal his conclusions.
At the subsequent Court of Appeal session, Lady Justice Macur said the need to resolve the future of the four children, all still in interim care, was sufficiently pressing to merit hearing the case during the court holiday period.
Her Ladyship examined the available medical evidence. A had been so young at the time of his death that he was barely mobile, so the bone fractures could not have been self-inflicted, and he had no condition that might predispose him to brittle bones or similar issues. The fractures had required “significant force applied to the bone” and so could not have been caused by casual domestic accidents.
Nevertheless, the original Judge had concluded that a finding of non-accidental injury would owe “too much to speculation and I cannot properly draw the inferences to support this allegation”.
Lady Justice Macur said she found the Judge’s “reasoning difficult to follow at this stage of his judgment.”
“The agreed medical evidence was unequivocal, as he found. He was not required to speculate on the detail or motive of the actual causation of the fractures….He does not adequately explain why he ignores the evidence in this regard.”
The case should be reheard, concluded Lady Justice Macur.
“A fresh pair of eyes must be brought to this case and the hearing conducted de novo [again].”
The full judgement can be read here.