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Retrial of childminder accused of causing harm to 10-month-old baby gets under way

Sandra Higgins has pleaded not guilty.

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Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

THE RETRIAL OF a Cavan childminder accused of causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby has opened at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Sandra Higgins (37) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan, has pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at the accused’s home on 28 March, 2012.

In his opening address, prosecution counsel Kerida Naidoo SC said the jury would hear how the baby girl was admitted to Cavan General Hospital having seizures and looking “pale and floppy” on that date.

Mr Naidoo said there would be evidence that the baby’s injuries included bruising and swelling on her head and face, bleeding on her brain and detached retinas in both her eyes.

He said it was the State’s case that these injuries caused a substantial risk of death or impairment to one or more of the baby’s bodily functions and that these were inflicted by Ms Higgins.

Counsel told the jury it would hear from multiple doctors who treated the baby as well as an expert in non-accidental injuries to children.

He said that nobody saw Ms Higgins inflict any injuries or shaking but that the prosecution’s case centres on background evidence, including in whose care the baby was under. The accused denied any wrongdoing when interviewed by gardaí.

The accused, a married mother-of-two, began working as childminder for the baby’s parents full time in November 2011.

Mr Naidoo told the jury there would be evidence that around March 2012, the parents became concerned their child was coming back from the minder’s with bumps and bruises.

He said it was the State’s case that the baby arrived at the accused’s house “in fine form” about 9am on the day in question, but about 4.30pm Ms Higgins rang the mother to say her child was in A&E.

Mr Naidoo warned the jurors that it was understandable to have sympathy for parties in the trial, but as a jury they had to be “dispassionate” when analysing the evidence.

Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, submitted to the court that it was fully accepted that the damage suffered by the baby amounted to serious harm.

Earlier, Judge Pauline Codd warned the jury of seven men and five women not to conduct their own research or discuss the case with others as it would be in contempt of court.

She also told the jury not to be influenced by any media attention or commentary and to base the verdict on evidence heard in court.

Earlier the jurors heard that the case has gone to trial on other occasions and there was media coverage of this but it was crucial that they should not be affected by any of this.

The trial continues and is scheduled to run for three weeks.

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Aoife Nic Ardghail

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