A ruling that a baby’s injuries including fractured ribs were sustained by accident as she slept with her mother has been overturned in the Court of Appeal.
The case involved a baby who was born by emergency caesarean. The procedure left the mother suffering post-operative pain and distress.
The mother struggled to cope when the father went back to working night shifts, as she stated in several text messages. In one text she suggested she could hit the baby.
When the baby was later taken to hospital due to bleeding from her mouth, several injuries were discovered. These included a bruised cheek, torn tissue within the cheek, a rash on her lip, a bruised knee and four fractured ribs.
The local authority took action and during the proceedings the father admitted to causing the injuries to the child’s lip and cheek through rough handling while feeding her.
The court heard evidence stating that a baby sustaining fractured ribs while co-sleeping was a “simple medical possibility”. However, the consensus among experts was that the possibility was “very low”.
The injuries were ruled to be accidental, but the local authority appealed, arguing that the judge had placed too much importance on certain aspects of the evidence.
The Court of Appeal overturned the decision. It ruled that the judge had looked at each injury in isolation rather than the situation as a whole.
He had failed to give enough weight to the experts’ opinion that the collection of injuries as a whole was typically seen in abused babies.
He had been wrong to rely on evidence from the mother about when she was asleep. He had not given adequate consideration to whether the weight of the mother rolling on the baby would be enough to cause fractured ribs.
The judge had also stated there was no evidence of rough handling of the baby, despite the father’s admission.
The judgement was set aside for a fresh hearing.
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Case Citations: RE A (A CHILD) subnom A LOCAL AUTHORITY v (1) A MOTHER (2) A FATHER (3) A (BY HER CHILDREN'S GUARDIAN) (2019)
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