Care proceedings dropped in case of six-month-old boy where fears were raised he had been shaken or smothered
17:05 29 January 2014
Care proceedings for a six-month-old boy following concerns he may have been shaken and smothered have been dropped following a High Court judgment.
Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) applied to the High Court to withdraw care proceedings for the child, known only as ‘D’, on the grounds there was insufficient evidence to continue.
The court heard how D had undergone two “life-threatening events” which may have been the result of shaking and smothering, or other abusive behaviour.
Following the incidents, D was made the subject of care proceedings by HCC and removed from his parents and put into foster care.
D’s mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has a history of mental health problems involving depression and suicide attempts. She took an overdose of tablets when D was two days old. But High Court judge Mrs Justice Parker said: “The mother’s mental health has to be seen not in conjunction with, but separately from, the alleged injuries.”
The court heard that evidence from medical experts, including a neurosurgeon and consultant pediatrician with experience in child abuse and trauma cases, was such that, while trauma could not be excluded, it could not be established on the balance of probabilities – the legal requirement – to have occurred.
Mrs Justice Parker said: “It was possible the injuries could have been caused by non-accidental shaking events, but there was no indicator that made the neurosurgeon feel this cause was more likely than any other of the possible causes.
“On the basis of this evidence, the local authority could not satisfy the court that this was inflicted injury and they accept that.”
She added: “The guardian is extremely concerned as to the impact of the mother’s mental health on her ability to provide safe care for D. I understand that concern, but I must approach this matter on a principled basis.
“I have taken fully into account the guardian’s anxieties. I do not consider those anxieties provide the solid ground to decline to accede to the local authority’s application to withdraw.”
The local authority has devised a plan with D’s parents to provide support.