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Family Law

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23 MAY 2013

FACT-FINDING HEARING: Re MR (A Child) (Fact-Finding Hearing: Physical Injuries) (No 1) [2012] EWHC 4258 (Fam)

(Family Division ,Pauffley J, 16 November 2012)

The 30-day-old child was taken to hospital by his parents with life-threatening injuries, discovered while the father was caring for him during the night, and suffered cardiac arrest upon his admission. Fortunately, he survived but the long-term consequences of his injuries would not be known for some years. A fact-finding hearing was convened to determine the parents' responsibility for the injuries. The local authority asserted that this was a non-accidental injury caused by the father.

Upon examination at hospital the child was found to have a total of 26 rib fractures, fractures of both clavicles, left-sided haemothorax (blood in the fluid filled space surrounding the lungs), right-sided pneumothorax (air within the pleural cavity), surgical emphysema (air within the soft tissues beneath the skin), and a pneumomediastinum (air within the part of the chest containing the heart, major blood vessels, trachea and oesophagus.

The father's assertion that the most serious injuries were as a result of his resuscitation attempt was not supported by the medical evidence. Taking all of the available information into account the judge was in no doubt that the child's thoracic injuries were caused by a sudden, explosive loss of control by the father in which the child's chest was excessively and forcefully squeezed and compressed.

In addition the child also suffered a fractured humerus, a badly bruised penis, torn frenulum and a number of other bruises. The father's demonstration and explanation of the fractured humerus could not account for the injury. In relation to the penis injury the father had told a number of obvious, flagrant and highly significant lies. He was found to be responsible for the injury and had demonstrated how far he was prepared to go to exculpate himself.

Neither parent had given truthful evidence about the events prior to the child's hospital admission and the mother had been found to have lied to protect herself and minimise her role in the events of that night. While she was not in the pool of possible perpetrators it was clear that she knew more than she had revealed. Both parents had failed to seek prompt medical attention for the child for an unacceptably lengthy period, motivated by their own self interest 


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