Saturday 22 July 2017

Child-minder charged with causing serious harm to baby told gardai she didn't 'violently shake' or assault baby

Childminder Sandra Higgins Picture: Collins
Childminder Sandra Higgins Picture: Collins

Fiona Ferguson

A child minder on trial accused of causing serious harm to a ten-month-old baby told gardai that the child was not “violently shaken” or assaulted while in her care.

Sandra Higgins (36) told gardai during her interview that she drove the child to hospital after the infant suffered a seizure at her home. She said she had cared for the baby like her own children.

Ms Higgins of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home on March 28, 2012.

Detective Garda Linda Harkin told Alice Fawsitt SC, prosecuting, that she was made aware on March 30, 2012 that there was a suspicion of non-accidental injury to a baby and she attended at Cavan General Hospital to speak with the consultant paediatrician, Dr Alan Finan.

She said Dr Finan told her that the child had come into the hospital in the care of Ms Higgins who had given an account of the child having a seizure prior to her arrival.

The doctor told Det Gda Harkin that the child had unusual bruising to her head, face and buttocks. He said there was evidence of a subdural haematoma and two healing rib fractures, estimated to be four weeks old. He said there was a bilateral haemorrhage behind her eye.

The child was no longer at the hospital at this time, having been transferred to Temple Street.

Det Gda Harkin said she later got a report from Dr Finan and on April 13, 2012 attended at Ms Higgins home where she was arrested and taken to a garda station for interview.

The court heard that Ms Higgins told gardai that she had been minding the child since June 2011, when she was six weeks old. She said that the child was “treated like one of our own” and she had a good relationship with the child's mother.

She said there had been incidents of the child falling in her home. She agreed with gardai that she had completed “incident reports” for two earlier events only after the child was hospitalised.

Ms Higgins told gardai that the child had been unwell in the weeks prior to the incident and had been on antibiotics. She said the child was quiet when her mother dropped her off.

She said the baby had two naps during the day and her cheeks were “flushed” when she was woken after the second nap. She said the child went “very quiet” and was sitting still like she was in a “trance.”

The child minder said the infant fell forward, onto her side and then stomach. She said her whole body was jerking all over the floor before she started to vomit.

Ms Higgins told gardai that after the seizure stopped, the child started choking and gasping. She said her body was limp and cold. The child vomited again in the car on the way to the hospital.

She told gardai that the child had falls in her home but she had never assaulted her.

After gardai read over the child's injuries to her, Ms Higgins told them “I never caused any injuries of any kind.” She denied suggestions of “violently shaking” or assaulting the child.

She told gardai she was shocked at the allegations and when asked how she felt about the child's injuries she replied “disgust and shock.”

The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury of six men and six women. There is a court order prohibiting publication of anything that would identify the child.

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