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Jury to retire in trial of childminder charged with assaulting infant

The jury will begin deliberating today in the trial of a childminder charged with assaulting a 10-month-old baby.

Registered child-minder Sandra Higgins (34), 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 evidence that the child was fine that morning and during the day. 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.

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.

Judge Patricia Ryan will finish charging the jury this morning before sending them out to begin deliberations.

In his closing speech, Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, 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.

He said the jury must ask themselves: "When did the child go from normal to abnormal and what does that mean?"


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.

He 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 and fractured ribs.

He said that prosecution witness, consultant paediatrician Dr Christopher Hobbs, had said that a bruise on the baby's ear was indicative of abuse. He said the child's mother had very little to say about these bruises.

He said that nobody seemed to dispute that Ms Higgins was the one who advised the mother to bring the baby to the doctor when she was chesty.

"Somebody who had physically abused a child, possibly fractured ribs, that person would recommend the child being brought to the doctors? It doesn't make the slightest bit of sense," counsel said.