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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

12 FEB 2014

FACT-FINDING HEARING: A Local Authority v M (Re-opening of Fact-Finding Hearing)

(Family Division, His Honour Judge Hayward Smith QC, 11 January 2013)

At the initial fact-finding hearing the judge concluded that one of three children had suffered non-accidental fractures caused by one of the parents while the other parent protected the perpetrator despite the fact that the child had suffered from rickets as a result of a vitamin D deficiency. The unanimous view of the medical experts was that the injuries were non-accidental.

Following the fact-finding hearing, judgment was given in London Borough of Islington v Al Alas and Wray [2012] EWHC 865 (Fam), which also concerned a child with rickets and suspected non-accidental injuries.  The judge in this case was persuaded to permit the parents to seek further medical opinions from the experts in Al Alas and Wray. On the basis of that evidence the fact-finding hearing was reopened.

The medical evidence centred on two conflicting opinions as to whether children suffering from rickets could sustain multiple fractures as a result of the disease and not non-accidental injury. In addition further evidence was presented that the parents would not necessarily have noticed all of the fractures when they were sustained apart from those to the humerus and the skull. The parents were found to have responded appropriately to those incidents.

The judge concluded that there was insufficient evidence to reach a finding that the injuries were non-accidental. The threshold under s 31 of the Children Act 1989 had not been crossed.

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