We publish here our fourth volume of reports of child care proceedings, which is our final volume of 2013.

It contains 13 reports, less than the previous volumes which contained an average of 30 reports each. However, readers will notice that a few of these reports are very long.

This is necessitated by the nature of these cases, as during the course of the year our reporters have attended a number that went on a long time, usually with a number of adjournments stretching over many months and with a lot of evidence. Usually they were strongly contested by the respondent parents. We feel that the cases published here at length illustrate some of the difficult issues facing social workers, judges and all involved in the child protection system.

The first of these is a case involving the non-accidental injury caused to a young baby while in the care of her parents. Non-accidental injury of very young children is a highly emotive and controversial subject both here and internationally, where there have been a number of high profile cases where the evidence has been hotly contested, or where it has come into question after the court has given its decision. We therefore outline in detail both the expert medical evidence and the social work evidence given in this case, along with the judge’s ruling. While some readers, especially those with a professional interest, will, we hope, read the full report, we also publish at the beginning of the report a synopsis of its main issues and a list of the main issues raised.

The second case concerns an African family where there were allegations of excessive physical discipline being used against the children. Again, we feel this is an important issue, especially as it has arisen in a number of cases attended by our reporters. It illustrates the interaction of cultural attitudes within some immigrant groups with our child protection norms, and raises wider issues of how, as a society, we address them. That case also gave a lot of consideration to the question of hearsay evidence from children and how the court might hear evidence from young children. We publish both the evidence and the deliberations of the court over a number of hearings in this case, with again a brief synopsis at the beginning.

We also publish here a full account of the Emergency Care Order hearing in the case of a Roma girl taken from her parents on the basis that she had blond hair and blue eyes, and the Gardai suspected she was not the natural child of her parents. The report includes the judge’s ruling on the in camera nature of the proceedings, which he found had been breached while the case was in progress.

The other cases included in this volume more closely resemble those we published earlier in the year. The themes of alcohol and drug abuse continue to feature. Emotional abuse and what constitutes good parenting and how parenting capacity is assessed are also present, as are reviews of existing orders where the courts examine certain aspects of the care being given the children in question. Some of the reports contain later hearings of cases that have already featured in earlier reports, and this is indicated.