In the context of care proceedings, the High Court has ruled that a young mother unreasonably failed to appreciate that she was ‘taking a risk’ by leaving her two-year-old daughter in the care of her boyfriend – who flew into a fit of rage and beat the child to death in her absence.
The little girl was kicked, stamped and shaken to death by the boyfriend, who later admitted manslaughter and was jailed for nine years. The girl’s mother was out at work at the time and prosecutors accepted that she was blameless and had ‘no reason to think’ it was unsafe to leave the toddler in his care.
However, following a fact-finding hearing, the Court ruled that there was inescapably a ‘contributory causal connection’ between her decision to leave her daughter with her boyfriend and the child’s death. She knew that his relationship with her daughter was difficult and the Court found that ‘any reasonable mother’ would have realised that it was too big a risk to leave the girl in his sole care.
The Court expressed considerable sympathy for the mother, who had suffered much and had caused no harm to her daughter. However, the ruling opened the way for the relevant local authority to seek a permanent care order in respect of her surviving child, another girl who was still aged under two.