Family court unable to explain baby’s injury

Family|December 7th 2015

The family court judge was unable to determine the cause of a skull fracture suffered by a 14 month-old baby girl.

In RBW & M v T&T, the injury was discovered by doctors when the toddler was taken to hospital by her mother and great grandmother in July.

Earlier that month, social workers from the family’s local authority had intervened after an incident of domestic violence at the family home, during which the mother was injured. The authority believed the family were not taking the incident sufficiently seriously but the case was not pursued as the couple did not live together.

The mother later took the baby into hospital to report a swelling on her head which she said had not been there the previous evening.

The baby, ‘LT’, had been with her father the previous day and then spent the evening and night with her mother and great grandmother. The former was initially unable to explain how the injury had occurred but later mentioned two falls at home.

The local authority began proceedings to establish the cause of the injuries. Meanwhile LT was placed with family friends.

Sitting at the Family Court sitting at Reading, Her Honour Judge Owens conducted a fact-finding hearing to establish the truth of the matter.

She noted that the amount of force required to cause a skull fracture would have been significantly greater than any used during the normal care of a baby. LT would have been distressed and in pain at the time of the fracture but, said the Judge, the falls described by the mother were implausible and could not account for the injuries. She had been neither “convincing” nor “credible” in her claims.

“By her own admission, [the mother] did not tell medical professionals about any possible cause for the skull fracture when she was asked repeatedly about that at both the walk-in centre and the hospital. She was unable to give a convincing explanation for that failure. She acknowledged when cross-examined … that a loving parent would not want to withhold information to medical professionals trying to treat a serious head injury. She did say that she was frightened and thought that, when mention was made of calling the Police and Social Services, that she would be blamed and this is why she said nothing.”

Therefore, said the Judge:

“The Mother failed to provide the medical professionals with a truthful account of what had occurred and by doing so prioritised her own needs over and above LT’s.”

Nevertheless, Judge Owens concluded that it was impossible to say with any degree of accuracy what had caused the injury and it could only be concluded that the injury had occurred while LT was in the care of her mother. Anything else would:

“…stray into the realms of speculation as it would go beyond the evidence before me in this case.”

The full judgement is available here.

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