Non-Accidental Injuries to Children – Family Judges Have the Final Say
Doctors and social workers are focused on protecting children. However, as a case concerning a five-month-old boy showed, it is not for them, but for family judges, to decide whether an injury suffered by a child is non-accidental.
The boy had been admitted to hospital with a rash on his abdomen. His mother was concerned that he might have meningitis but, after that possibility was excluded, a consultant paediatrician concluded that his condition was strongly suggestive of non-accidental injury. The local authority launched care proceedings.
In exonerating the boy’s parents, however, a judge noted that there had been no previous concerns about their care of the healthy and happy child. Since shortly after his birth, the couple had repeatedly raised concerns that he tended to bruise very easily and there was overwhelming evidence that that was the case.
The consultant had reached her conclusion on the basis that no medical condition that could lead to easy or spontaneous bruising had been identified. However, the judge observed that it was not for the parents to prove their innocence, but for the local authority to establish that they were the likely perpetrators. Ruling out various options as to how the bruising might have occurred did not mean that the last option standing – non-accidental injury – had been proved. In the circumstances, the judge dismissed the council’s application for a care order.