The case refers to a fact finding in respect of the father. It concerned C, an eight week old baby that suffered a serious non-accidental injury whilst in the care of his parents. Our clients were the maternal grandparents of the baby and as such, we played a peripheral role in the fact finding.
We were instructed by the maternal grandparents in relation to their three grandchildren. The youngest, C, an eight week old baby suffered a serious non-accidental injury as a result of shaking, causing C to suffer an extensive hypoxic ischaemic brain injury.
On 26th June 2018, C was admitted to A&E in relation to a range of marks on his body. The Local Authority put forward a number of allegations, including that: (1) C was admitted to hospital with seizures and apnoeic episodes; (2) a CT scan revealed bilateral subdural haemorrhage; (3) the subdural haemorrhage is consistent with a shaking injury; (4) either C's mother or father caused C to suffer the haemorrhages and extensive hypoxic-ischaemic brain injury by shaking him on or before 24 July 2018.
Initially, both parents were in the pool of perpetrators but later the evidence indicated only the father could have caused the injuries.
The instructing solicitor was directly involved in instructing a number of medical experts including a consultant paediatrician, consultant neuro-radiologist, consultant paediatric ophthalmologist and paediatric neurosurgeon. This was a complicated medical fact finding case where there were a number of injuries to the child that were required to be determined. The instructing solicitor from Duncan Lewis represented the clients at the five day fact finding hearing and was also required to consider extensive medical evidence.
His honour Judge Willans considered at length the nature and causes of the alleged bruises, the brain injury, the summary of live evidence and an assessment of witnesses. Upon hearing all the expert opinions and analysis, Judge Willans found “no basis to satisfy that C was shaken in an angry or frustrated manner by the father. This would be inconsistent with his role as father over the last two years and is wholly out of character with his presentation throughout this period to the mother and her family….the father raced up the stairs in close to a blind panic. He had one motivation and that was to get C to his mother for help. All other considerations were secondary. I accept his account of taking multiple steps at a time. I find with each stride there was significant movement in the father's body as he flexed and stretched leaping upwards. I am therefore satisfied on balance that the father caused the injuries inadvertently, rather than as a result of a deliberate or conscious shaking motion, and particularly one without any justification.”
It was noted that this was an extremely sad case in which the father had made a wrong decision and Judge Willans notes that whilst hindsight is a wonderful thing, “it was not available to the father that morning.”
The maternal grandparents sought to put themselves forward to care for all the children, both in the short and long term. They were made a party to the proceedings from the onset and the instructing solicitor was successful in securing a children arrangements order for the older children, thus giving the maternal grandparents, parental responsibility. This enabled them to receive non-means tested legal aid.
The judge had also endorsed the placement of C into their care and all children continue to reside with their grandparents at the time that this fact-finding hearing was held. During the hearing, Judge Willans noted that he has received “no reports suggesting this has been anything other than a positive placement.”
When the baby was ready to be discharged, we successfully represented the grandparents to secure C’s placement with them. In the longer term, the instructing solicitor was also required to advise the grandparents on the different options available to them.
The maternal grandparents were represented by child care solicitor, Jitender Birah from the Harrow office.