Friday 15 December 2017

Childminder on trial accused of harming baby in her care

Childminder Sandra Higgins Picture: Collins
Childminder Sandra Higgins Picture: Collins

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A professionally trained childminder has gone on trial charged with causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby.

The child's mother told the trial of Sandra Higgins (36) that her daughter was "fine" on the morning of March 28, 2012 when she brought her to the defendant's home.

Ms Higgins, of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home.

Alice Fawsitt SC, prosecuting, told the jury they would hear evidence that when Ms Higgins presented the child at Cavan General Hospital, the baby was suffering seizures and had extensive bruising around the face and head.

Opening the State's case, Ms Fawsitt said that a medical expert would say that "shaken baby syndrome" was the most likely cause of these seizures and retinal haemorrhaging and a detached retina.

She said they would hear evidence that these injuries could not have occurred accidentally.

The child's mother told Ms Fawsitt that she travelled to the hospital after receiving a call from Ms Higgins, telling her that the baby had suffered a seizure. "Sandra told me that my daughter was sitting down on the floor playing when she vomited and had a seizure," the mother said.

Dr Alan Finan, a consultant paediatrician at Cavan General Hospital, told the court that two of his colleagues briefed him as to the child's condition on admission.

"She was unconscious, actively seizing, her limbs were jerking, she was pale and not responding as a normal 10-month-old would," he said.

"She was not responsive and had no interest in her surroundings."

He said that the child was given oxygen and medicine for convulsions.

Dr Finan described what he termed "extensive bruising" to the child's face and head, on both sides of her forehead, and a significant underlying swelling on her hairline.

He also referred to bruising in her groin area and left buttock and described multiple small "fingertip" bruises on her back.

He said it was his "conclusive view" the injuries happened on the day the child was hospitalised. He said this was the only credible explanation.

However, defence counsel Remy Farrell told the court that in the doctor's initial report, dated April 2, he stated that "precise dating of [the] injuries is not possible at this time".

In the report, he said this dating could be made upon further evaluation.

The baby's mother said Ms Higgins kept a diary each day which was handed over during the Garda investigation. She testified that she believed some of the entries about injuries and illness had been changed or added after March 28.

Mr Farrell put it to her that the notebook had been forensically examined and there was no evidence that entries had been made after the fact.

The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury. There is a court order prohibiting publication of anything that would identify the child.

Irish Independent

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