Friday 9 December 2016

Jury deliberates in trial of child-minder charged with causing serious harm to baby

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 24/06/2015 | 02:30

Registered child-minder Sandra Higgins (34) is alleged to have caused the injuries to the baby girl she was minding at her home (Courtpix)
Registered child-minder Sandra Higgins (34) is alleged to have caused the injuries to the baby girl she was minding at her home (Courtpix)

The jury in the trial of a child-minder charged with causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby girl will begin their deliberations today.

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Registered child-minder Sandra Higgins (34) is alleged to have caused the injuries to the baby girl she was minding at her home.

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

The trial has heard that in the weeks leading up to the alleged assault, the child's parents became concerned about the number of bumps and bruises the child - who can not be named by court order - incurred whilst in the care of her childminder.

The court has heard that the child was admitted to hospital with extensive bruising and facial injuries two days after Ms Higgins was informed that the parents were making alternative arrangements.

The trial has heard evidence that the child was fine on the morning of March 28, 2012 and during the day. However, around 5pm Ms Higgins brought her to Cavan General Hospital where she presented with a brain bleed, detached retina and fractured ribs. She had seizures for over five days.

The prosecution alleges the baby's symptoms were consistent with a violent shaking.

Doctors who treated the baby girl said it was highly likely that the injuries to the child happened while she was in the care of Ms Higgins and that the injuries were non-accidental.

However, expert witnesses for the defence said the evidence was more suggestive of a head trauma and could have been the re-activation of an old injury.

In his closing speech, prosecutor Sean Gillane SC told the jury that they should "stress test" the evidence of two expert defence witnesses. He said they were "hand in glove" sharing a fixed view about shaken baby syndrome, which was contrary to all the medical literature.

He said that the evidence was that the child was a perfectly normal baby up to the time before the alleged assault.

"She was bubbly, she was babbly, she was playful. She was developing in every single respect you might expect," said Mr Gillane. He said the jury would have to ask themselves a simple question: "When did the child go from normal to abnormal and what does that mean to you?"

Defence counsel Remy Farrell SC said that it is accepted that the injuries suffered by the child were non-accidental.

"The old injuries are wholly consistent with some trauma. It's blindingly obvious whatever event occurred weeks before could have caused a subdural haemorrhage," he said.

Evidence

Mr Farrell told the jury that there was not a "screed of evidence" to support the "subtle implication" made by the prosecution that Ms Higgins had caused these older injuries such as finger tip bruises.

He said that the State's own witness, consultant paediatrician Dr Christopher Hobbs, testified that one could not time the injuries conclusively.

"His concession that you cannot time the injuries conclusively must be the end of the prosecution case," Mr Farrell said.

Irish Independent

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