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Family Law

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30 MAY 2014

Re AB (Care Proceedings: Fact-Finding Hearing) [2014] EWHC 1367 (Fam)

Re AB (Care Proceedings: Fact-Finding Hearing) [2014] EWHC 1367 (Fam)

(Family Division, Baker J, 11 April 2014)

Care proceedings – Fact-finding hearing – Death of baby – Whether injuries non-accidental

Please see the attached file below for the full judgment.

The local authority failed to discharge the burden of proof and demonstrate that the first child’s injuries were caused non-accidentally by the parents.

The 11-week-old baby died in hospital in Bristol. A post mortem revealed that she had sustained bone fractures, a scalp injury and intra-cranial bleedings. She also suffered from a number of conditions, linked to a unique combination of genetic abnormalities. No clear cause of death could be established and no criminal proceedings were initiated.

When the mother gave birth to another child the local authority initiated care proceedings based on the circumstances of the first child’s death. The child was removed from the parents’ care and placed with foster carers. A fact-finding hearing was convened.

The parties were in agreement that aside from the post mortem findings there were never any concerns about the child’s care offered by the parents. The local authority sought a care order based upon the medical evidence which it asserted taken in the context of the whole situation led to the conclusion that the child’s injuries were non-accidental and were caused by one of the parents.

The medical evidence could not be treated in isolation and had to be seen in the context of the family circumstances. In all of the circumstances of this case the authority had not discharged the burden of proof. The child had been extraordinarily vulnerable due to her medical conditions and could have died at any time. The overall evidence led the court to conclude that she might have been vulnerable to fractures in ordinary handling and the same could be said for intracranial bleedings. The parents were reliable witnesses and it was inherently improbably that either of them would inflict injuries on a baby that they clearly adored. The application was dismissed.

The fully referenced, judicially approved judgment and headnote will appear in a forthcoming issue of Family Law Reports. A detailed summary and analysis of the case will appear in Family Law. __________________________________________________________________

Case No: BS13C00646
Neutral Citation Number: [2014] EWHC 1367 (Fam)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
FAMILY DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
London
WC2A 2LL

Date: 11/04/2014

Before :

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE BAKER

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989 AND IN THE MATTER OF AB (A MINOR)

Between :

BRISTOL CITY COUNCILApplicant - and - A MOTHER (1) A FATHER (2) A MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER (3) AB (by his children’s guardian) (4)Respondents

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Stuart Fuller (instructed by the Local Authority) for the Applicant
Nkumbe Ekaney QC and Tabby Macfarlane (instructed by Kelcey and Hall) for the Mother
Robin Tolson QC and Elizabeth Harris (instructed by Fosters and Partners) for the Father
Claire Wills-Goldingham QC and James Cranfield (instructed by Bobbets Mackan) for the Maternal Grandmother
Stephen Roberts (instructed by Kirby Sheppard) for AB, by his children’s guardian

Hearing dates: 10 - 21 March 2014

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Judgment

Re AB (Care Proceedings: Fact-Finding Hearing) [2014] EWHC 1367

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