A High Court has ruled that a hearing into responsibility for severe injuries to a child should be reconsidered.
Re AD and AM concerned a case originally heard in 2013. In that, also just published, Mr Justice Cobb conducted a fact-finding hearing into the injuries suffered by ten month-old baby boy, concluding that they had been inflicted by the mother.
The incident occurred in October 2012, when the child in question was just ten months old. The mother rang 999 to complain that her baby had fallen unconscious. When paramedics reached the scene, they found the baby in a life-threatening condition, with fractures to his skull and spine, as well as a brain injury. He was rushed to Newham General Hospital.
Doctors concluded that the injuries could not have been caused by normal handling and so must have been inflicted deliberately. Both parents strongly denied doing so but neither could explain how the injuries had occurred.
The baby was had been in the care of his father the afternoon before the incident and at one point cried after falling over, but this incident was ruled at out as a cause of the severe injuries. Discussion also centred around a possible vitamin D deficiency which could have made him more prone to bone fractures, but no conditions in keeping with the available evidence were identified.
The child had been alone with his mother for most of the two and a half hours before she made the call. The mother was prosecuted for assault and cruelty but this process ground to a halt after the prosecutors repeatedly failed to prepare themselves adequately for a pending trial. The prosecution was eventually stopped for ‘abuse of process’. Consequently the mother’s defence for applied for a rehearing of the 2013 finding, on the basis of evidence gathered for her defence during the criminal trial that would not now take place.
This evidence included a new analysis of bone material suggesting that the boy might have suffered from abnormal fragility or low bone mineral density after all. Mr Justice Cobb considered the new evidence. He expressed significant reservations about its significance but nevertheless concluded that:
“…if it is accepted, it may (potentially at least) alter the final picture.”
Even if the injuries had been caused deliberately, the new evidence could widen the pool of potential perpetrators beyond the mother.
The Judge therefore ordered an official reconsideration of the ‘facts’ he had found in 2013.
The ruling is here.