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10 MAY 2012

CARE PROCEEDINGS: A County Council v M and F [2011] EWHC 1804 (Fam)

(Family Division; Mostyn J; 13 July 2011)

During a fact-finding hearing to determine the cause of death and origin of injuries of 7-month-old child the parents described how they had discovered the child looking lifeless one morning. The paramedics attended and worked forcefully on him but the child was pronounced dead at arrival at hospital. A post-mortem revealed the child had 23 separate injuries but none of which either individually or cumulatively would have caused death and there was no medical explanation for the cause of death. Sudden infant death syndrome was said to be unlikely due to the age of child and the existence of injuries.

Social work assessments of the parents were positive with no apparent cause for concern apart from the fact that the father had taken the baby in a bike buggy from a very young age, despite a warning on the buggy that it was unsuitable for children under 12 months. There was a possibility that the injuries caused by buggy use and/or a serious blood disorder.

The local authority proceeded their case on the basis that the parents had abused the baby throughout his life and murdered him. The histological evidence indicated that the injuries had occurred during the lifetime of child, not after death. The judge found it was extremely improbable that the parents had caused the injuries.

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