Saturday 22 October 2016

Childminder trial: Bleeding around the child’s brain does not point to diagnosis of baby shaking, US radiologist tells court

By Declan Brennan

Published 19/06/2015 | 15:37

Sandra Higgins
Sandra Higgins

A consultant paediatrician has told the trial of a childminder charged with assaulting a baby that some of the baby's injuries represented a “classic text book case” of baby shaking.

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Registered childminder Sandra Higgins (34) is alleged to have caused the injuries to the 10-month-old baby she was minding at her home.

Ms Higgins (34) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, County Cavan has pleaded not (NOT) guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby on March 28, 2012.

On day four of the trial Dr Christopher James Hobbs told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that he specialises in child protection and child abuse cases.

He said he agreed with the findings of Dr Alan Finan, who treated the child and concluded that the mechanism of injury was “likely to be violent shaking”.

“I felt the assessment of child had been thorough very. I couldn’t see any obvious gaps in the information. I felt that the conclusions drawn are those I would have drawn with that information,” he said.

He said the child had unusual bruises, such as those to the buttocks, the back and ear.

“In an infant of that age the bruises to the back are most unusual. Bruising in the ear really in any age of a child is very worrying because it’s a protected part.

“Ear bruises are unusual in accidental injury but are quite common in non-accidental injury,” he said.

Asked about finger tip bruising on the child's back he said: “This is the classic textbook picture. You would see the bruises of the back in cases of shaken baby. You don’t actually see it all that often”.

He told Remy Farrell SC, defending, that the ability to age bruises was very unpredictable.

Dr Julie Mack, who specialises in paediatric radiology, said that the bleeding she identified on scans of the child's brain did not represent the rupture of larger blood vessels associated with baby shaking.

“These are the veins thought to be ruptured when you shake a baby and in this case there is simply not enough blood for a large vessel tear. It came from a smaller vessel,” the defense witness told the jury.

She said the bleeding on the membranes just above the brain could have been caused by bruising resulting from a bump on the head.

Under cross examination, she told Sean Gillane SC that the standard view is that when you shake a baby large bridging veins break into the space between the skull and the brain.

"It is a standard view, most people believe and are taught that when you shake a baby the veins break into the subdural space. I absolutely disagree with it.”

The trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court continues 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.

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