Tuesday 27 September 2016

Jury fails to reach verdict in trial of child-minder charged with causing serious harm to baby

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Published 25/06/2015 | 12:46

Sandra Higgins
Sandra Higgins

A jury has failed to reach a verdict in a case involving a childminder accused of causing serious harm to a 10 month old baby.

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Sandra Higgins (34) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town had 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.

The prosecution alleged that brain injuries suffered by the then 10 month old infant were consistent with violent shaking and were inflicted by a child-minder.

One expert who testified for the prosecution described bruises on the child's back as as "a classic, textbook picture in a case where you have baby shaking".

However, defence experts cast disputed the mechanism and timing of the child's injuries.

The trial heard Ms Higgins told gardai that she treated the baby as one of her own children and never assaulted her.

The trial heard that Ms Higgins began minding the child shortly after the child was born in May 2011.

Prosecutor Sean Gillane SC said that in early 2012 the child’s parents began to notice bumps and bruises on the child and Ms Higgins explained these by saying the child had fallen at various points.

In March Ms Higgins telephoned the child’s mother to say the baby had been vomiting. When collecting her the mother noticed a bruise under the infant’s eye. Ms Higgins said that child had fallen over, the trial heard.

The parent’s concerns developed, Ms Gillane said, and they began seeking alternative child minding arrangements.

On March 28, 2012, two days after the child's parents informed Ms Higgins that they were making alternative arrangements, Ms Higgins rang the child’s mother in the afternoon from the Accident and Emergency ward of Cavan General Hospital.

The trial heard that the child’s mother rushed to hospital and that the child was very ill and the position appeared grave.

The child had suffered a brain injury, a brain bleed and a detached retina and had seizures for a number of days.

The prosecution claimed that the child was subjected to violent shaking leading to brain injury, bleeding around the brain and retinal hemorrhages.

It was the prosecution's case that the injuries were non-accidental and caused by the violent shaking of the infant which took place while she was in the care of Ms Higgins and at her hands.

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.

The child can not be named by court order.

The jury had been deliberating for almost six hours

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