Monday 12 November 2018

'Solid evidence' of abuse to baby girl, expert tells trial

Childminder Sandra Higgins denies causing serious harm. Picture: Collins
Childminder Sandra Higgins denies causing serious harm. Picture: Collins

Aoife Nic Ardghail

A medical expert has told the trial of a Cavan childminder accused of causing serious harm to a baby that in his view there was "solid evidence" the child had been abused.

On the second day of the trial of Sandra Higgins (37), consultant paediatrician Dr Christopher Hobbs read from hospital reports detailing the baby's injuries. These included brain haemorrhages, facial bruising, detached retinas and rib fractures.

Dr Hobbs, a UK expert in physical signs of child abuse, told the jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that a radiologist's report showed rib fractures on both of the baby's sides and that these injuries were at least seven to 10 days old.

He said looking at the pattern of bruising and the rib fractures, there was "solid evidence" that the infant had been abused.

He said the "triad" of brain injuries, that is bleeding on the brain, retinal haemorrhage and brain dysfunction, pointed to non-accidental trauma.

Ms Higgins, of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan, has pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the 10-month-old baby at the accused's home on March 28, 2012.

Dr Hobbs told Kerida Naidoo SC, prosecuting, that he had been asked for his expert opinion in the investigation. He said he agreed with other doctors that the baby had suffered a "serious, life-threatening, non-accidental injury".

He accepted when Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, put it to him that a radiologist said the rib fractures were at least two or three weeks old, but said he couldn't put an age on the bruises.

He agreed he was aware the baby's parents indicated that she had fallen and banged her head on at least one occasion while in their care.

Dr Hobbs agreed the baby had been seen by her GP three times since the previous Christmas and that Ms Higgins had asked the parents if the doctor had done a full bodily examination. He accepted that nobody reported a concern before March 28, but added that this was "very common" in cases of child abuse.

He agreed when Mr Ó Lideadha put it to him that Ms Higgins' diary entries of the baby vomiting on dates prior to her being hospitalised did not paint a picture of a perfectly well child.

The trial, which is scheduled to last for three weeks, continues.

Irish Independent

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