Update: Our post below was originally published in March 2019. We have since been made aware of this story from The Times explaining that 250 babies a year have suffered accidental drops in hospital. Having dealt with such a difficult and stressful matter for our client, we want to do all that we can to prevent such incidents happening in future. Childbirth can leave new mothers extremely tired, but they understandably want to be close to their new babies. The Times article explains what to look out for to help prevent such accidental falls.
By Lisa Phillips, Director and Solicitor Advocate, Child Care Law
Louise Noblet and Lisa Phillips have recently represented a young mother in care proceedings in which she was found not to have purposefully caused a depressed skull fracture to her days old baby and he was returned to her care.
The 19 year old had a difficult relationship with her own mother and her partner wasn’t supported by his family as their child was born out of marriage. Four days after the child was born he was taken into hospital with swelling to his head and found to have a depressed skull fracture. The mother offered an explanation that she had banged his head on the cot prior to discharge from hospital, but hadn’t mentioned it to the doctor who saw him during the day, or the doctor at discharge, or the two midwives who visited her and the child at home, despite the swelling being noticed and classed as normal. When the mother realised the severity of her son’s injury after a further eight days, she admitted to dropping him whilst in hospital at less than 24 hours old. She said she was frightened to tell the truth after being woken by a nurse and told not to sleep with her baby in her arms, but when she was alone she took him from his cot and fell asleep with him in the crook of arms only to feel him slip as she awoke. He was immediately removed from her care and placed in foster.
During the court proceedings that took nine months to conclude, she saw him three times a weeks for just an hour and a half under supervision. She received a glowing report. The independent evidence from three experts was that the mother’s explanation of a drop could explain the injuries but it was for the judge to decide if the mother was telling the truth. On the mother’s behalf we successfully argued that the mother’s account should be accepted and the injury be ruled an accident.
In the witness box the mother was described by the judge as being “determined to do her very best in difficult circumstances to answer each and every question put to her and to tell the truth about what happened”. The judge went onto say “the mother’s remorse and guilt at falling asleep with her child in her arms was obvious, she did not seek to shift the blame onto any other person, she had no criticism of any of the professionals working with her and she accepted without hesitation that she should have sought medical attention and she should have drawn to the attention of medical practitioners involved in caring for the child that he had suffered a fall”.
Our client was separated from her son for nine months. She will never know if being open and honest at the outset she would have had that time with him and will always live with the guilt of knowing if she had he would have had the proper care in a timely manner. The system that we operate in acts to protect the child and she knows she could and should have done more to protect her son but in her case the court system came to the right outcome and they were reunited.