On the 3rd April 2019 in a non-accidental care case the Court allowed an appeal by a local authority against a finding that four rib fractures suffered by a baby were sustained accidentally by overlying while co-sleeping with her mother.
A 2 month old baby (A) was taken to hospital by her parents after her mother observed bleeding in A’s mouth. On examination, A was found to have a number of injuries including a bruise on her left cheek, a petechial rash on her lower lip, a torn upper frenulum, a bruise on the outside of her right knee and four healing fractures on her ribs. An interim care order was subsequently granted following an application by the local authority and A was placed in foster care.
Two experts were instructed to prepare reports. Dr J, A consultant paediatric radiologist, advised that rib fractures were typically a result of “severe excessive squeezing/compression of the chest” and required “severe brute force”. Dr C, a consultant paediatrician, found that the fractures were most likely due to “abusive squeezing or gripping.”
The mother’s position at the fact finding hearing was that A’s rib fractures may have been caused accidentally by overlaying whilst co-sleeping. The experts were of the view that while overlaying was a potential cause, medical theory in support was insubstantial. Apart from the torn frenulum injury which the father admitted causing whilst bottle feeding A. both parents put forward accounts that the other injuries might have been caused accidentally. The judge agreed with the mother that the rib injuries had most likely been caused due to her overlaying whilst co-sleeping. In relation to the other injuries the judge accepted the father’s admission in relation to the torn frenulum and was of the view that the other injuries had been caused accidentally.
The local authority appealed against the finding in relation to A’s rib fractures. The grounds of appeal were as follows: