A judge has dismissed care proceedings for two children after ruling that the youngest sibling’s injuries were accidental.
In October 2014, the now two year-old boy in question, ‘J’, was taken to hospital by his parents. He had had an accident in the home which caused a fracture in his arm. His parents acted quickly and sought medical attention. However, “to their shock and surprise” the couple found out that J also had fractured ribs and that this injury was older than the one to his arm.
Doctors reported the older injury to police and social workers as “accidental rib fractures are exceedingly rare” because of the force required. The mother insisted that it had really been an accident. She recalled an incident at a friend’s house when she was walking down the stairs while carrying J and slipped. She claimed she had lost her balance and instinctively held onto her son tightly as she fell.
Unconvinced, the local authority then took both J and his older sister out of their parents’ care and placed them with their grandparents. The parents were allowed to see their children but only when supervised.
Soon after the children were removed, the council launched care proceedings. Once this had begun, they sought a declaration that the injuries had been inflicted rather than accidental. In July 2015, His Honour Judge Robert Owen ruled that had indeed been the case.
The parents then challenged this ruling in the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the case should be reheard by a different judge.
At the Birmingham County Court, Mr Justice Keehan cited evidence from medical experts which said that “the incident described by the mother … would fit the mechanism of rib fractures” and that it “fell within the timeframe for which [the injuries] were sustained.”
The judge said the couple were “loving, dedicated, devoted parents” and that “no adverse factors [were] known about this family at all”. He ruled that it was “perfectly possible” that the mother’s fall had caused the injuries. As a result, Mr Justice Keehan dismissed the entire care proceedings because the local authority’s application had been “a single issue case concerning solely the issue of the cause of J’s fractures”.
Read A Local Authority v K & Anor here.
Photo by Lydia via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.