Emergency Care Order for baby with non-accidental injury – 2016vol2#3

An emergency care order was made, with the consent of the mother, in respect of a baby who had suffered non-accidental injury in a provincial city.

A paediatrician explained that a baby was brought into the hospital who presented with seizures. She noted that the baby had no temperature and displayed no sign of infection.  A CT scan was carried out which showed signs of subdural haematoma. There was blood on the CT scan which was of various ages. The baby also had a bruise on her check but “looked healthy and well nourished.” The paediatrician explained that the seizures needed to be managed with two sets of medication and “time would tell if there would be any repercussions of the injuries.”

The baby was later transported to a children’s hospital in Dublin to undergo an MRI scan. That scan confirmed two bleeds on her brain and a chest x-ray showed signs of a healing fracture to her rib. The paediatrician maintained that not all of the injuries occurred on the same day. She estimated that one bleed was between one and three days old while the other bleed was over a week old. The judge asked if such injuries could have affected the sight of the baby and the paediatrician said “it was too early to tell at this stage.” She concluded that the injuries were associated with shaking.

A detective Garda explained that she had received a call from the hospital in respect of a baby who had been admitted. The hospital staff expressed concerns with regards to the injuries. The detective Garda said she spoke with the mother, father and social worker. The mother told her she prepared a bottle and left the baby with the father as she had to collect the other children from school. She said the baby was fine when she left the house.

The father gave various versions of the incident to the hospital staff. He initially said the baby refused to take the bottle and was crying. He tried to console the baby and placed her on the bed to go downstairs to get a nappy. When he returned the baby had stopped crying and was “blue and lifeless.” He said it looked as if she had had a seizure. He later said that the baby fell off the bed and that he picked her up and met the mother on the stairs.

The following day the father made admissions to a nurse that he had in fact thrown the baby onto the bed. He informed the Gardaí and produced himself at a Garda station.  The detective explained that there was an ongoing Garda investigation and that the matter was being treated as an assault. They were awaiting medical records and DPP directions.  The father had since fled the country and said that he did not want the mother to get in trouble as he had caused the injuries to the baby.

The social worker said that she had a long history with the family. The mother revealed that she self harmed and the social worker explained that if an expectant mother admitted to this type of behaviour she was automatically referred for support. The family consisted of seven children including the baby and a number of the children had social workers. There were issues of child welfare, frequent moves and acrimony between the mother and the various fathers of the children.

The mother did not know the father of the baby very long. She met him in the United Kingdom and was aware that he had been in the army and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. The social worker explained that there were possible child protection concerns about the father in the United Kingdom.

The mother never advised the social work department of the fact that the father was residing in the house with the family. There were further concerns that one of the female children had been sleeping in the same bed with the mother and father. One of the other children, who lived with his father, said that the father of the baby had often given him “slaps and digs” and punched holes in the door.

There were no children in the family home at present. The social worker said that if “any child protection concerns were to arise about any child, contact needed to be supervised.” She explained that she would not be happy if the baby were to be returned to the family home.

The judge, having heard all the evidence, was satisfied there was an immediate and serious risk to the baby were she to be returned home. She granted an emergency care order for a period of six days.