In a case which proved that, although medical experts can be influential, it is for judges alone to resolve the most sensitive family proceedings; parents who were suspected of inflicting life-threatening injuries on their baby girl have been totally exonerated.
The girl was a few months old when she was admitted to hospital with a dangerous build-up of fluid on both sides of her brain. The relevant local authority launched care proceedings, arguing that her injuries had been inflicted and that her parents, as well as her maternal grandmother, were all possible perpetrators.
The family members faced unanimous evidence from three eminent consultant doctors that the little girl’s injuries were probably non-accidental and a result of deliberate shaking. However, following a fact finding hearing, a family judge found that neither parents nor grandmother were responsible.
“I remind myself that the experts are not the decision makers in these difficult cases,” said the judge, who noted that the family had been described as loving and caring by health visitors and that there was no evidence of child neglect, substance abuse or any of the domestic difficulties common to such cases.
Dismissing the local authority’s case, the judge found that the girl’s injuries were of ‘unknown aetiology’. Although a birth-related event or underlying metabolic disorder were extremely unlikely explanations, there was ‘not an iota of evidence’ to support speculative expert opinions that the girl had been subjected to multiple traumatic events.