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Childminder trial: Consultant paediatrician says 'not reasonable' a suggestion baby suffered brain injuries before she was dropped off at childminder

Declan Brennan

Published 18/06/2015 | 15:28

Sandra Higgins
Sandra Higgins

A consultant paediatrician has told the trial of a childminder accused of assaulting a baby that it wasn't reasonable to suggest brain injuries suffered by the baby happened before she was dropped off at her childminder.

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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 by shaking the child.

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

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

Read more here: I treated child like my own, baby-shake accused told gardai  

On the third day of the trial consultant paediatrician Dr Alan Finan said that her brain injuries could not reasonably have occurred prior to 9am on that day, prior to her being dropped off by her mother to her childminder.

The court has heard the child was fine that morning and during the day. Around 5pm Ms Higgins brought her to Cavan General Hospital where she presented with active seizures, brain injuries and fractured ribs.

Read more here: Child-minder told gardaí baby wasn't shaken in her care  

Dr Finan said: “In my professional view it would not be a reasonable suggestion that she could have been normal for seven hours with those injuries already being incurred. It would not be a reasonable proposal.”

Sandra Higgins (34) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, 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.
Pic: Court Collins.
Sandra Higgins (34) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, 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. Pic: Court Collins.

He told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that he would find a proposal that the injuries could have been caused accidentally to be unacceptable.

“That the combination of injuries could be caused accidentally would not be credible,” he said. The court heard these conclusions were contained in a report provided by Dr Finan to investigating gardaí on April 11, 2012.

Read more here: Childminder Trial: Accused tells court she cared for baby girl like she was 'one of my own'

Under cross examination Dr Finan agreed that in an earlier report, dated April 2, he stated that “precise dating of [the infant's] injuries is not possible at this time”. In the report he said this dating could be made upon further evaluation and medical imaging.

He denied a suggestion from Remy Farrell SC, defending, that he had changed his mind between the first and second report.

“I didn’t change my mind. I felt I wasn’t in a position to complete a final report, I termed it a preliminary report.

“On April 11, I felt I had reached a point where I was able to draw conclusions,” he said.

Mr Farrell put it to him that nothing had changed between the two reports and suggested that the doctor had “just needed to think about it”.

Read more here: Child was 'bright and bubbly' on day of alleged assault - uncle  

Dr Finan replied: “It was a very serious issue. I needed to be careful about the conclusions drawn. I took the time I needed”.

Dr Finan told Mr Gillane that a CT brain imaging scan showed the child had subdural haemorrhaging or bleeding over both halves of the front of the brain. There was also bleeding between the brain lining and the brain.

He said there was evidence the baby was not seeing anything. The baby continued to have seizures for five days.

He said the persistence of seizure indicated significant manifestation of brain abnormalities. He said there was reduced movement to her right limbs which persisted for a long period after her discharge from hospital in April.

A skeletal survey found two rib fractures which were not recent. He said the infant also had finger tip bruising on her back which was also consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

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

Dr Finan told the court: “The whole picture very clearly indicated to us that she had suffered significant non accidental injury. I mean an injury that is inflicted.

“The combination suggested to be me a shaking injury was a likely explanation.”

He said retinal detachment, retinal haemorrhaging and the subdural haemorrhaging were significant indicators of a shaking injury.

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.

Read more here: My daughter was 'fine that morning', mum tells shaken-baby claims trial  

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