Monday 29 May 2017

Couple whose infant daughter was placed in emergency care due to 'unexplained bruising' lose High Court appeal

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Aodhan O'Faolain

A couple whose infant daughter was placed in emergency care soon after birth due to allegedly “unexplained” significant bruising to her have lost their High Court challenge over that order.

The parents complained they were given insufficient time to respond after the Child and Family Agency (CFA) informed them in June 2015 it intended to apply the same day for the emergency care order (ECO).

The ECO was sought after a public health nurse called an ambulance after noting allegedly significant bruising to the six week old baby’s upper body and head.

The child was taken to hospital where a paediatric consultant described bruising on the left shoulder muscle and left lower arm, left side of the chest and left temple area. A CT scan of the baby’s head was normal as was a renal ultrasound scan.

The consultant concluded the cause of the injury was “likely non-accidental” and had not been satisfactorily explained by the child’s carers.

The CFA was notified and interviewed the parents. Five days after her hospital admission, the child was considered fit for discharge but it was agreed she would remain there pending a CFA assessment of her welfare.

Four days later, the CFA informed the child’s father it would be seeking an ECO that same afternoon. The parents sought a solicitor but by the time they and their lawyer arrived in court for the hearing, it had gone ahead without them.

The District Judge, who had heard the matter, adjourned it to the next morning when he refused to discharge his care order.

That same day, the baby was discharged into her grandmother’s care.

Two days later, the parents went to the High Court. Their application for an inquiry into the legality of the child’s detention by the CFA was refused but they were given leave to pursue the matter via judicial review.

When the parents later undertook to move in with the grandmother and care for the child there, the CFA secured a six month supervision order with the effect the baby was no longer under CFA care.

Following a further child protection review conference held by the CFA, it was decided in early 2016 the baby no longer needed a child protection plan because the risk of significant harm had been addressed.

The CFA told the parents the infant’s record on the child protection notification system (CPNS) would be changed to “inactive”, meaning she was previously at risk of harm and had a child protection plan in the past.

In his High Court judgment refusing judicial review, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan ruled the case was now moot or pointless as the ECO expired eight days after it was made and it had no effect afterwards on other orders or any future proceedings.

Given that finding, it was unnecessary to address other issues raised, including the parents' complaints about inclusion of their names on the CPNS until their child turns 18, he said.

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