IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN ACT 1989
AND IN THE MATTER OF KGH (A CHILD)
B e f o r e :
| WREXHAM COUNTY BOROUGH COUNCIL
|- and -
|MB & DB, Maternal Grandparents(2)
Posib Ltd, Y Gilfach, Ffordd y Pentre, Nercwys, Flintshire, CH7 4EL
Official Transcribers to Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service
Tel: 01352 757273 Fax: 01352 757252
for the Local Authority
MráDaniel Dodd (instructed by Messrs GHP Legal) for the Respondent
The First Intervenor appeared in person and was assisted by his mother MrsáHH
as a quasi-McKenzie Friend
MráKirit Champaneria (of Messrs Gittins McDonald)
for the Intervenors, Maternal Grandparents
Miss Heather Erwood (instructed by Messrs Gamlins) for the Children's Guardian
Hearing dates: 2nd, 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th June 2014
Crown Copyright ©
HIS HONOUR GARETH JONES:
(i) DráSprigg, a consultant paediatric radiologist;
(ii) Deborah Collins, social worker;
(iii) Gareth Morris, a trainee social worker;
(iv) Kate Blyth; also a social worker;
(v) DráWild, a consultant paediatrician;
(vi) The mother;
(x) MrsáDB; and finally
(xi) The Guardian, MráCraigáTaylor.
(1) The background
(2) K's medical presentation
(i) a 1.5cm x 0.5cm bruise on the outer right mid-forearm;
(ii) a hairline bruise on the forearm which was 3cm long;
(iii) a patch of non-blanching discolouration on the palms of both hands which extended onto some of the fingers.
I have available to me some poor quality photographs of these injuries which were taken at the hospital. As at the date of these injuries, K was approximately thirty-nine days old.
"ůsome additional non-blanching patches had appeared on K's trunk and lower limbs".
These marks made the doctor concerned about an evolving septicaemic blood infection. However, the marks on the right forearm and the hands were not in any pattern which the doctor had ever seen arising due to a septicaemic illness. A tentative suggestion of an evolving haemangioma (a birth mark due to an abnormal proliferation of blood cells below the skin) was made by the doctor. This somewhat inconclusive medical conclusion was, however, of sufficient concern to lead to a multi-agency strategy meeting on 3rd October 2013 at the hospital.
(i) a circular 0.5cm diameter bruise on the lower left cheek;
(ii) a 0.5cm circular possible brown bruise on the central forehead;
(iii) a linear red mark on the back of four fingers of the right hand which had the appearance of a fine linear scratch mark;
(iv) a red linear mark on the back of the base of the left middle finger and red linear marks on the index and middle fingers;
(v) a dry rough area on the knuckle of the middle finger; and
(vi) an irregular area of bruising over the mid to lower back in the mid line which was 3cm x 2.3cm and comprised of at least three separate oval or rectangular bruises running diagonally across the spine. The area appeared to be tender and slightly swollen.
Photographs of these injuries were taken subsequently by the North Wales Police photographer and I have copies available to me. The bruising to the left cheek in particular is prominent and obvious and easily visible and it cannot be concealed by clothing.
(i) a metaphyseal fracture of the distal left femur;
(ii) a periosteal reaction along the shaft of the left proximal tibia;
(iii) a metaphyseal fracture of the proximal left tibia;
(iv) a metaphyseal fracture of the distal left tibia;
(v) periosteal reaction along the shaft of the distal left tibia;
(vi) a metaphyseal fracture of the distal left radius; and
(vii) a healing fracture of the proximal shaft of the left radius.
As at 3rd December 2013 of course, K was approximately 103 days old.
(i) the soft tissue bruising evident on 30th September 2013 and 3rd December 2013 is non-organic and traumatic in origin; it was caused non-accidentally;
(ii) there is no underlying medical condition and no credible history of accidental trauma to account for them. The multiple bruises at different sites were caused in separate episodes, unrelated to the fractures and the bruises were caused by trauma to the skin at the sites of bruising;
(iii) there is no radiological evidence of any underlying bone disease and the fractures are non-organic in origin;
(iv) a metaphyseal fracture (and I refer here to the left knee, the left ankle and the left wrist) occurs if a significant traction force is applied to the end of a long bone resulting in a shearing torque force being applied to the growth plates causing a separation from the shaft of the bone with a small flake of bone being pulled off the shaft of the bone at the metaphysis producing a bucket-handle fracture. Such fractures are highly specific for non-accidental injury. The mechanism causing such fractures is a very forceful pulling along the shaft of a limb with or without a twisting component;
(v) the transverse fracture in the radius (i.e. the left forearm near to the elbow) is a discrete fracture. The mechanism of injury suggested is a levering force applied across the forearm, e.g. by a carer yanking a child up using the left forearm as a handle;
(vi) when each of these fractures occurred, they would be painful and would elicit a cry or a scream from a child. A perpetrator would be aware that excessive force had been applied. A third party who had not witnessed the event would be aware of non-specific irritability when handling the child. The shaft fracture would have produced more pain and a more significant reaction from a child. Again, a perpetrator would be aware that excessive force had been applied. A third party who had not witnessed the event would be aware of tenderness in the arm and a reluctance by the child to move the arm, although the discomfort would diminish over time, perhaps over several hours to several days, and pain relief such as Calpol would take the edge off the painful reaction. The infliction of bruising would have caused pain and discomfort to K and she would have cried or screamed after injury for about five or ten minutes;
(vii) the bruising evident on 30th September 2013 are likely to have been inflicted on 29th or 30th September 2013;
(viii) the bruising noted on 3rd December 2013 are likely to have been inflicted on 2nd December 2013 or 3rd December 2013. Having regard to the absence of facial bruising noted by the social worker on the afternoon of 2nd December 2013, probably closer to rather than further away from 3rd December 2013, according to DráWild. This opinion was supported by DráDaniel's observation of underlying swelling which was visible in relation to the back bruising in the Child Protection Medical on 3rd December 2013 (see I46);
(ix) the fractures were two to four weeks old, i.e. they were caused between 11th and 25tháNovember 2013;
(x) the fractures could be due to separate applications of force, as suggested at paragraph 3(iii) to (iv) at page F145 of the Schedule of Concurrence and paragraph 4(i) to (iv) of the same Schedule at page F146. However, DráSprigg in his oral evidence indicated that if the left arm and the left leg were pulled very forcibly together simultaneously, such a mechanism could account for the metaphyseal fractures, e.g. if an adult had taken hold of an infant forcibly by the left arm and the left leg (using them as handles) perhaps from a changing mat. However, the transverse fracture of the left forearm was caused by a separate incident, although possibly as part of a single general episode;
(xi) the weight loss is of significance, in that the discomfort due to K's injuries caused her to feed poorly; and finally
(xii) the infliction of these injuries is outside the ambit of any normal handling and the force used would be significant and excessive.
(3) The Local Authority's Plan and the response of the parties thereto
(4) The legal provisions to be applied
"31. ůday after day, up and down the country, on issues large and small, judges are making up their minds whom to believe. They are guided by many things, including the inherent probabilities, any contemporaneous documentation or records, any circumstantial evidence tending to support one account rather than the other, and their overall impression of the characters and motivations of the witnesses. The task is a difficult one. It must be performed without prejudice and preconceived ideas. But it is the task which we are paid to perform to the best of our ability.
32. In our legal system, if a judge finds it more likely than not that something did take place, then it is treated as having taken place. If he finds it more likely than not that it did not take place, then it is treated as not having taken place."
(i) perpetration by one individual is more probable than perpetration by two individuals in different incidents at separate times. A household where two carers are capable of causing separate incidents of serious injury to an infant is more improbable than a household where one carer is capable of doing so. However, it is of course possible that a household can include two carers who are capable of hurting children;
(ii) it is more probable that an incident of injury by a single perpetrator occurs within a domestic environment rather than outside, in the open, where he or she runs the risk of being seen and apprehended by a member of the public; and
(iii) perpetration in the absence of a witness, rather than in the presence of a witness is more likely, unless of course the perpetrator can rely upon the silence and the collusion of the witness. That is because self-restraint or fear of ultimate detection would lead to such caution. Of course, if two adults hurt a child, each has a reason to keep quiet. A conclusion that it is more probable that A was the perpetrator rather than B is not a conclusion that A is the perpetrator rather than B for certain, but rather that I conclude that there is more evidence in favour of A being the perpetrator rather than B.
(5) The issue of perpetration and related factors
MráH's cannabis usage and his alleged violence
"Our families are at each other's throats, arguing between themselves, my sister and M's sister."
The mother's credibility
Issues of credibility in relation to MráH
"I have now separated from C."
As at 19th March 2014 (the date of that statement) that assertion was, I find, deliberately untruthful. In that respect, the mother's assertion to the same effect in paragraph 8 of her statement of 12tháMarch 2014 is also deliberately untruthful. These two individuals will lie and lie without conscience in Court statements with or without a declaration of truth, despite being warned of the possible consequences of such conduct.
The recent allegation made by the mother
"I recall in or around February 2014 MH returned home from a shift at M [name of employer given] and told me that he had left work early and attended at the police station. He mentioned that on one occasion in November 2013, when I was working a shift at BB [name of employer given], he was changing K's nappy on the sofa. He went to grab either the wipes or the nappy and K rolled off the sofa. MH went to grab K to stop her from falling and grabbed her by the arm and leg and yanked her up back onto the sofa. K cried for a few minutes and then stopped. MH told me that if K had carried on crying, he would have come to work to get me. As K had stopped crying, he thought she was okay and then she went back to sleep. The next day, MH told me he was going to see his solicitor to inform her. He returned a few hours later and admitted that he had not been to the police station and his solicitor had told him the mechanism he had described could not have caused the injuries. In Court on 14tháMay 2014 it became evident that MH had not told his solicitor about this incident at all. I recall that on the day MH told me he had been to the police station, I telephoned my father to involve him."
Now, it follows from the earlier paragraph that this also must have been in February 2014, the narrative continues:
"A conversation then took place between my father and MH which I was not party to. I do not know exactly what was said between them. I do know that my father told MH to be careful because he could get himself into a lot of trouble."
"C did call me and said, 'Dad, you're never going to believe this but MH has left work early and gone to the police station and admitted that it was him that caused these injuries to K.' I said, 'Are you sure?' She said he had left work. MH was with her. I asked that she put him on the phone. I asked him what this was all about. He said that he had been to the police and that he had been advised by the police to go his solicitor first and then speak to them. I said, 'You want to be careful. If this is true, you will be in serious trouble.' I asked him why is he saying this now. He said that at least C can get K back. I told him it doesn't work that way. A day or two later I spoke to C and asked what the outcome was with MH and the police. She said that he had not been to the police at all."
"The dick has gone to the police and admitted it."
That hardly indicates a serious acceptance by the mother of a confession made by MráH.
(i) K has suffered the injuries identified by me above in the course of this judgment in the manner identified by the agreed medical evidence, which I have summarised already;
(ii) The injuries were caused to K whilst she was in the care of her mother and MráH. No other individual was involved;
(iii) MráH or the mother could be solely responsible for inflicting injury, but equally they each could have inflicted injury to K at different times in different episodes;
(iv) K was injured at the mother's home, a home shared with MráH for much of the time. The perpetrator or the non-perpetrator within the home would obviously have been aware of K's reaction, that she had been very seriously hurt;
(v) The mother and MráH have failed to protect K:
(a) by failing to alert the protective agencies of what had occurred, if directly witnessed;
(b) if not directly witnessed, by failing to obtain timely medical attention in November 2013 after the fractures were occasioned to K and having regard to her likely reaction thereto with regard to feeding and weight loss. Something was obviously amiss with K, even if the precise cause was unknown to a non-witnessing adult; and
(c) by maintaining a relationship with an adult perpetrator of serious injury, the non-perpetrator could not be trusted to protect K if K was returned to his or her care;
(vi) Because of this deception and untruthfulness, neither the mother nor MráH should be trusted in the future and this should be borne in mind by any protective agency or indeed K's carers Mráand MrsáB. They need to be extremely vigilant with regard to their grand-daughter. That is an uncomfortable conclusion for them, but one which I urge them to accept as speedily as possible.
(6) The conclusion in this case
End of judgment