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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

07 JAN 2013

FACT-FINDING HEARING: Re M (Fact-Finding Hearing: Injuries to Skull) [2012] EWCA Civ 1710

(Court of Appeal, Munby, Kitchin LJJ, Sir Stephen Sedley, 20 December 2012)

The 5-month-old child was admitted to hospital with 3 rib fractures and complex bilateral skull fractures although fortunately did not suffer the very serious brain injuries which would ordinarily accompany fractures of that severity. The parents claimed that several weeks prior to the hospital admission the mother had squeezed the child's chest to avoid dropping her as she fell out of the bath. The father claimed that on the day before admission he had dropped the child and she had hit her head on a low table before she hit the floor.

During a fact-finding hearing experts described the child's skull fractures as spectacular and beyond anything they had seen before in a child of this age. An abnormal bone fragility was ruled out. The fact that she suffered no apparent pain or neurological facts was said to be not just unusual but inexplicable. None of the experts was able to come up with an explanation as that went beyond what each acknowledged was speculation.

The judge found that the evidence was weighted in favour of finding that it was more likely than not that the parents had not told the truth about what happened to the child. She was not able to identify which parent was responsible for the injuries and therefore both parents remained in the pool of possible perpetrators. The parents appealed.

The judge had failed to explain how in light of the expert evidence she was able to arrive at her conclusion. Her refusal to find that there was something unexplained and beyond current medical knowledge was inconsistent with the expert evidence and required a more convincing process of reasoning. The judgment was set aside and remitted for re-hearing before a judge of the Family Division.

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