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Family Law

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18 JUN 2013


(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Hallett, Elias LJJ, 8 May 2013)

When the child was 10 months old the parents took him to hospital where he was discovered to have sustained a cut and bruising to his forehead; a 5mm laceration to the inside of his top lip; extreme bruising to the upper and lower gums; two circular bruises to his forehead; a fracture to the right side of his head; and, a wedge fracture to the 11th thoracic vertebrae.

The parents claimed that the injuries must have happened accidentally and that an underlying bone condition may have contributed to the fractures. The local authority applied for a care order. At a fact-finding hearing the judge heard expert evidence from a consultant paediatrician, a consultant paediatric endocrinologist; and a further consultant paediatrician who was also a consultant paediatric endocrinologist. He concluded that the injuries were non-accidental and that one or other of the parents had caused them, that they both knew more than they were telling and that they both failed to seek timely medical attention for the fractures and the mouth injury. The parents appealed.

The appeal was dismissed. There was some force in the disquiet at the judge's reasons for finding that the mouth injuries were non-accidental but the mother's explanation for the forehead injuries was inherently unlikely. The possibility of an underlying bony condition was fully explored at trial. The evidence was far from conclusive and far from persuasive. The expert view was that it was little more than a mere possibility. Whether the parents' explanations were accepted or not it was clear that they failed to seek prompt medical attention for the child's injuries.

It would have been preferable for the judge to express himself more fully but in terms of what was essentially an ex tempore judgment, there was no basis for attacking the actual findings and his reasons were adequate.


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