Childminder Trial: Accused tells court she cared for baby girl like she was 'one of my own'
Published 17/06/2015 | 18:12
A child-minder on trial for assaulting a 10-month-old baby told gardai that the baby was not shaken in her care.
Sandra Higgins (34) also said that she cared for the baby girl like she was one of her own children.
Ms Higgins, 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.
On day two of the trial, Detective Garda Linda Harkin told Sean Gillane SC prosecuting, that Ms Higgins was arrested and interviewed on April 13, 2012.
The registered child-minder told gardai she was born in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh but had moved to Cavan and gone on to study practical child care in Dublin.
Read more here: Child was 'bright and bubbly' on day of alleged assault - uncle
She started minding the baby from June 2011 and said that she treated her “like one of my own”. She said she had a good relationship with the mother.
She said the child's first walk was on February 27 and after this there were a number of falls and bumps.
She said that in March the baby was sick and was running a temperature and was sleeping a lot. On the date of the alleged assault the baby was better than the day before but was very quiet.
She said that morning they played for a while and the infant had a nap. She had a sleep in the afternoon too and then Ms Higgins said she woke her and placed her down on the floor in the playroom.
She told gardai: “Her cheeks were flushed on waking. She went very quiet. She sat like she was in a trance. She sat looking at me.”
“She went forward and back. She fell forward herself. She went on to her side and I remember she went on to her tummy. I remember her arms were stiff. Her whole body was jerking.
“She was jerking all over the floor. I remember pushing toys out of the way. She started to get sick.”
She said her body was going cold and limp. She drove the infant to Cavan General Hospital.
Asked about previous bumps and bruises the infant had received while in her care Ms Higgins told gardai: “I didn’t assault [her]. She had falls. She had a seizure. She was never assaulted.”
“I cared for [her] like I cared for my own children”.
She admitted that she only filled out an incident report form in relation to a number of falls during March after the infant was hospitalised. She said she did this after a social worker advised her to sit down and go over the previous weeks and record “anything else that came into my head”.
She admitted that she had failed to keep some records properly but denied she was creating records for a cover-up. She also denied making additions to the child-minding diary.
Ms Higgins' mother Joyce Higgins told Mr Gillane that she had called to her daughter's home on March 28. She said the child was flushed and red in the face and very quiet.
She said she noticed bruising at the centre of the infant's forehead which looked in colour like an old bruise.
The jury were shown garda photographs of bruises to the infant's head and body while consultant paediatrician Dr Alan Finan described these to the court.
Mr Gillane told the jury that the images were not pleasant but it was agreed that they were necessary.
Dr Finan said the child had “extensive bruising all over her body”.
The trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court is set to run for six days before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of eight men and four women. There is a court order prohibiting publication of the child's name.
Ms Higgins also told gardai that she was shocked and disgusted at the allegation of assault. Gardai put it to her that the amount of records she kept was over the top and she said she had always kept records.
She denied she was trying to cover anything up.
Gardai put it to her that the baby could now not see, has no feeling and may have Cerebral Palsy. They told her that the child's life is destroyed. The accused said she didn't inflict any injuries to the child.
She said that her husband was not home that day and that neither her mother or her young son had done anything to the infant.
Dr Finan said on examination the infant had large bruises measuring two by one centimetre to her forehead which were brown in colour and associated with significant underlying swelling.
There were bruises over each cheekbone which were pink or purple in colour and bruises on her left ear. There were also bruises on her pubic bone and groin area and a large four by two cm bruise at the seat of her pants.
He said the infant was experiencing an active seizure which involved stiffening of the lower limbs. The child was unconscious and pale and floppy on admission with a lack of head control.
A medical history provided by Ms Higgins outlined that the child had been well during the day and had developed a seizure immediately after being fed around 4.30pm.
Opthamologist Richard O'Regan said he was on duty in Cavan General Hospital on that day and was asked to examine the infant.
He said that, on examining the back of the child's eyes he found an extensive amount of haemorrhaging at both eyes. He said he hadn't seen that level of haemorrhaging in a child before.
He rang the paediatric ward and told the nurse that if there was any concern of a non-accidental injury the child should be transferred to Temple St. Children's hospital because it had facilities to photograph the retinal bleeds.
The trial is expected to continue tomorrow.