Friday 28 October 2016

Child-minder denies serious injury to young baby's eye 'caused by violent shaking'

Declan Brennan

Published 17/06/2015 | 02:30

Sandra arrives at court for her trial yesterday. Photo: Collins
Sandra arrives at court for her trial yesterday. Photo: Collins

A registered child-minder has gone on trial charged with causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby.

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On the first day of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the infant's mother testified that her daughter was fine on the morning of March 28, 2012, when she dropped her to the home of Sandra Higgins.

Ms Higgins (34), of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, Co Cavan, has pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home on March 28, 2012.

About 4.30pm that day, Ms Higgins brought the infant to the A&E ward of Cavan General hospital.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane SC, told the jury that they would hear evidence that the child was suffering active seizures and had extensive bruising around the face and both sides of the head.

Opening the State's case, Mr Gillane said that a medical expert would say that retinal haemorrhaging suffered by the infant was consistent with violent shaking injury that was not accidental.

The jury was told that, after her arrest, Ms Higgins denied any wrongdoing and said she would call expert witnesses in her defence to say it was not possible to say whether the injuries were inflicted or accidental and that there was no evidence to support a diagnosis of shaking.

The child's mother told the court that she went to the hospital after receiving a call from Ms Higgins from the hospital and told her the infant had had some kind of a fit or seizure.

"She said [the child] was fine all day. She had a sleep. She had her tea. She just sat down on the floor to play and vomited and had a seizure," the witness said.

She said when she got to the hospital her child was unconscious. "I was very upset. I couldn't believe it. [She] had been fine that morning."

She noticed the infant had a swelling between her eyebrows and asked the accused about this, she said.

Ms Higgins told her the infant had been fine all day and said she had not fallen or bumped her head.

She told the mother that the bump between her eyebrows was from a different day, the court heard. The witness said she was sure the bump wasn't there that morning.

She said that over the next days the child was subject to a number of examinations and a doctor told her that the baby had two rib fractures that were three to four weeks old. There was also medical opinion that some of the injuries were the result of violent shaking.

The court heard that in early 2012 there were incidents of the child having bumps and bruises.

Her parents were concerned that Ms Higgins "wasn't keeping a close enough eye" on the infant and began looking for an alternative child-minder.

After an investigation was launched, the mother told gardai that she was concerned that some of the entries in a child-minding diary kept by Ms Higgins had been changed or added.

She told the court that an entry about the child bumping her head on March 22 wasn't there before.

References to spitting up phlegm on March 5, to falling over on toys on March 6 and throwing up when fed on March 26, were not in the diary before March 28, the mother testified.

The mother agreed with Remy Farrell SC, defending, that she did not read all the entries in the diary every day and that she had not noticed other entries about bumps. She also agreed that it was Ms Higgins who suggested on March 5 the child be brought to the doctor or get a check-up because she had a temperature.

In his opening speech, Mr Gillane told the jury that prejudice and sympathy together should be left outside the jury room and told them to look at the evidence in a cold and dispassionate manner.

The trial is set to run for six days before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of eight men and four women.

A court order prohibits publication of the child's name.

Irish Independent

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