Sometimes I come across a law report of a case that has a deep effect upon me, even though it may not demonstrate a new point of law, or even deal with a situation that is particularly unusual for the family courts to be dealing with. Re G (A Child) (Fact Finding), just reported on Bailii, is one such case.
In some ways Re G is quite dramatic, reading like some realistic TV drama. But if it is a drama then it is also a tragedy.
I don’t normally read the entirety of child care law reports, but the first paragraph of His Honour Judge Booth’s judgment filed me with a grim compulsion to read on:
“This case concerns a boy, G, born on 14th October 2015. In the early minutes of 22nd November 2015, G sustained injuries to his head of the most severe nature, resulting in him sustaining life-threatening injuries and permanent brain damage. He will never be the boy or the man that he might otherwise have been. He sustained those injuries whilst in the care of his parents at his home. He was five weeks old, helpless, defenceless and utterly dependent on his parents to look after him and keep him safe. Whatever more detailed findings I make, there can be no argument but that in those basic obligations to their son, his parents failed him totally.”
What follows is a tale of criminality, deceit, lies, alcohol abuse, violence, cover-up and, finally, perjury.
G’s parents are of Polish origin, although they have both lived in this country for some years. The mother has what Judge Booth described as “an ambivalent relationship” with alcohol, having been brought up by an alcoholic father. There have been times when she has refrained from drinking, but the impression Judge Booth got from her evidence and that of her brother, is that when she drinks she becomes voluble and belligerent. The father, meanwhile, has a criminal record from his time in Poland and served a prison sentence for robbery. At the time of his move to this country, he was wanted for questioning by the Polish Authorities for an offence related to the circumstances of the death of a teenager. He was and remains the subject of a European arrest warrant.
The parents met in October 2013 and began living together, along with the mother’s younger brother. Whilst she was expecting G the mother, clearly aware of the father’s criminal background and the fact that he was required for questioning by the Polish police, lied to the authorities about her domestic circumstances, refusing to disclose the identity of G’s father and saying that he was off the scene when, in reality, they were living together.
According to the evidence, in the afternoon of 21 November G’s parents began drinking vodka, and continued to do so through the evening. They both admitted that they were arguing. At around 10 to 10.30 in the evening, the mother’s brother, G’s uncle, returned home. He was immediately conscious of the atmosphere in the house, and told Judge Booth that he had a feeling that something bad might happen.
It fell to Judge Booth to determine exactly what happened, but the clear facts were as follows. Around midnight neighbours heard raised voices coming from the house, and at 16 minutes past midnight a neighbour sent a text message to her partner that read:
“Sounds like the guy next door is beating the woman. Her child is screaming. Should I call the police?”
Two minutes later G’s uncle phoned the emergency services, calling for an ambulance.
The ambulance arrived at 26 minutes past midnight. The paramedic was greeted outside by G’s uncle and was shown in to the house, where G was with his mother in the living room. He described how a man who he assumed was G’s father came from the kitchen area into the living room, not to enquire about his son and what was going to happen, but simply to protest his innocence. The mother left with G in the ambulance. The father did not, instead leaving the scene. He was subsequently identified and arrested, as a result of the police interrogating the mother’s telephone. He was charged with an offence of causing grievous bodily harm, to which he pleaded not guilty. I suspect that the criminal proceedings are now over, which is why this judgment has now been published (it was handed down on 7 July), but I do not know the outcome of those proceedings.
The injuries suffered by G were appalling and horrific. He had suffered two separate skull fractures, one of which left a fragment of bone lodged two centimetres into his brain. There were three areas of bleeding in the brain. The result of these injuries is that a significant part of his brain has died.
The three principal witnesses (the mother, the father, and the uncle) initially gave various explanations as to how G had suffered the injuries, those explanations only coalescing into a single version of events in order to meet what each understood to be the evidence of the other. None of their explanations were considered by the expert Paediatric Neuroradiologist to explain G’s injuries. Judge Booth found that the accounts of all three witnesses were deliberately untruthful, and designed to mislead. He concluded that G had sustained three blows to the head. He was not able to say which of the parents caused which of the injuries, but held both of them responsible for all of them.
I don’t know what the prognosis is for G, or what the future holds for him. I can only hope that he survives to live a fulfilling life, whatever form that may take.
The full report of Re G can be found here, and I recommend you read it, to see just what the family courts deal with.
Photo by Canned Muffins via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.