Hertfordshire County Council has issued care proceedings in relation to a young boy known only as D, who is six months old. The hearing was heard by Mrs Justice Parker.
The hearing learned how D’s mother had experienced a significant history of mental health problems. Depression had led to two failed suicide attempts.
The child, D, had experienced two life threatening events shortly after birth and these were found to have caused subdural collections. A subdural collection, also known as a subdural haematoma, is the collection of clotting blood that forms in the subdural space between the skull and the brain. Blunt head trauma is the usual cause; however, spontaneous subdural collection can develop.
The concern was that the child had received the head injury from severe shaking, smothering or other abusive actions.
Mrs Justice Parker called upon four expert witnesses to determine the cause of the subdural collections. They were Dr Jayamohan (a neurosurgeon), Dr Ganeson (neurologist and part of the treating team), Dr Anslow (a paediatric neuroradiologist) and Dr Morrell (consultant paediatrician with experience in child abuse cases).
The expert witnesses concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to say that the injury was caused by a violent attack on the child.
The Guardian of the child was hesitant of the decision to withdraw care proceedings. In summing up Mrs Justice Parker cited the case of London Borough of Southwark v B , in which Waite LJ said: "The paramount consideration …. is …. the question of whether the withdrawal of the care proceedings would promote or conflict with the welfare of the child concerned. It is not to be assumed when determining that question that every child who is made the subject of care proceedings derives an automatic advantage from having them continue.”
She went on to conclude: “There is no advantage to any child in being maintained as the subject of proceedings that have become redundant in purpose or ineffective in result. It is a matter of looking at each case to see whether there is some solid advantage to the child to be derived from continuing the proceedings."
Even though the mother had attempted suicide when the baby was only two days old, and that the child had a medical condition that has been connected with head injuries, there was not a sufficient case for taking the child into care.
Many mothers suffer post-natal depression, which is a serious mental health problem that often soon passes, and spontaneous subdural collections can occur. The risk of a miscarriage of justice by taking a child into care is too great and while the mother appears to be raising the child in a normal and caring fashion there cannot be a case for taking the child into care.
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