ON APPEAL FROM BLACKBURN DISTRICT REGISTRY
(HIS HONOUR JUDGE RAWKINS)
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE TOMLINSON
LORD JUSTICE McFARLANE
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Ms Jane Bazley and Ms Jacqui Wall (instructed by Farleys Solicitors) appeared on behalf of the Respondent
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LORD JUSTICE McFARLANE:
1. "I arrive at the conclusion that I cannot be satisfied to the requisite standard that the rib fractures sustained by [A] were deliberately inflicted upon him. I am unable to identify how or when they are occurred. I have determined that the medical evidence is not certain, as it purports to be, and there is no empirical evidence which would support such a finding. Accordingly I do not make it, and it therefore follows that the court should not go on to consider other issues, and particularly not that of perpetration."
1. "During the course of May both boys developed coughs. It is clear that both of them were unwell and even in the early stages the symptoms were obvious and distressing."
1. "The court can readily infer that this must have been a troubling and distressing time for the mother, trying as she was required to do to cope with two babies, both of whom were ill."
1. "Most helpfully, it was acknowledged on behalf of the Local Authority by Mrs Tenkel [counsel] that the court would have to look for other evidence in order to reinforce the attribution of non-accidental cause in respect of the rib injuries. Earlier in this judgment, and I hope fairly, I have highlighted areas which might excite justifiable concerns either because of the mother's personal circumstances, the unconventional state of the parents' relationship, the pressures placed upon the mother looking after two small children who became very ill, the missed appointment with the Health Visitor, the failure to register [A] with the Doctor and other matters which emerged in evidence. All of them could have placed her under extreme pressure. Casting the harshest possible criticism on the lapses of parental responsibility which she acknowledged, too readily perhaps, there are legitimate concerns.
2. 55. Notwithstanding, the reality is that this mother appears to have been described by everybody as a good and loving mother, who did not show any sign of wavering in the care which she gave to her children under the strains which she was bearing, and who has demonstrated since the removal of the children an obvious determination and commitment to the children."
1. "In the case of the parents, I observed at the end of the hearing that I considered each of them to have behaved with great dignity and decorum throughout. It is easy to lose sight of the ordeal which proceedings generally and hearings of this kind specifically must represent for parents because by their nature their purpose is inquisitorial and therefore examination of testimony must be rigorous. Accordingly, the parents each are owed significant credit for the way in which they conducted themselves."
1. "The opportunity was taken to explore with Dr Chetcuti in the course of his live evidence the matter of the rib fractures, and in particular the explanation which had been proffered by the parents following [S's] fall. He was cross-examined on behalf of the mother and asked for his understanding of what had happened. He referred to his understanding that an 18-month old toddler [of course S was only 13 months at the time] had fallen sideways on to [A] whilst he was lying on the changing mat."
1. "It is possible that this crying could recur for at least three to four days after the rib fractures."
1. "So I was anxious on two counts, first of all, that the doctors weren't really very clear as to what the mechanism of the fall was and what the consequences could have been and hadn't been asked about the fact that these were injuries to the posterior, I accept absolutely what is said in here that they knew that the injuries were to the posterior area of the ribs, but they weren't actually asked about that, it wasn't the place of the court to ask that question I don't think in these circumstances, and Doctor Chetcuti in particular applied this analogy which is an often repeated analogy of the stresses and pressures which are required during the course of a resuscitative process as being a reason why what was described couldn't have been the cause of injury, without knowing what was alleged to have occurred in the accidental form in detail."
1. "The injuries were caused by application of moderate squeezing while A was grasped tightly around the chest."
1. "Most impressive of all is what is said of the mother in a report prepared by the Health Visitor, notably from stage 73 onward. [I quote directly from the summary at C52]:
2. 'Throughout my involvement with this family I have observed a close loving relationship between the mother and her children. The children have been well cared for and the mother has been responsive to their emotional and physical needs. There is a history of domestic violence which predates the birth of S, but I have had no concerns about the vulnerability of either of the children during my involvement with the family. In my professional opinion, the mother has always put the children's needs before those of her own and her husband.'"
1. "There is no evidence by which I am swayed that this was a mother who gave way to the pressures which she was under and who snapped, as was suggested might have been the case."
1. "For all the reasons set out in the judgment I have concluded that it is not, with the consequence that relying on the medical expert alone, I am unable to make a finding as to the infliction of non-accidental injuries by either parent on [A], nor to arrive at any conclusion at all as to how the injuries were caused".
LORD JUSTICE TOMLINSON:
LORD JUSTICE RIMER:
Order: Appeal dismissed