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Childminder pleads not guilty to causing serious harm to a ten-month-old baby

The woman has pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby.

A PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED childminder has gone on trial charged with causing serious harm to a ten-month-old baby.

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

Higgins of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home on 28 March, 2012.

Alice Fawsitt SC, prosecuting, told the jury they would hear evidence that when 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, 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 Fawsitt that she travelled to the hospital after receiving a call from 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.

When she arrived at the hospital her child was unconscious. She noticed the baby had a swelling between her eyebrows and asked the accused what had happened.

The mother told the court that over the next days the child was subject to a number of examinations.

Investigation launched

After the child was hospitalised an investigation was launched. As part of this the mother told gardaí that she was concerned that some of the entries in a childminding diary kept by Higgins had been changed or added.

The court heard that in early 2012 there were incidents of the child having bumps and bruises.

The mother recalled that on 5 March she noticed her daughter had a black eye and asked Higgins about it. The defendant said that the child had hit her head off the leg of the table, the witness testified.

A few days later the mother said she noticed that the bruise seemed to have “grown in size” and again asked Higgins about it. She said the defendant told her that the child had fallen for a second time.

The mother said she was becoming increasingly concerned at this stage and discussed the matter with her husband and with her friend.

She testified that on a number of occasions Higgins had recorded that the child had vomited after eating her tea.

“I began to wonder if maybe my daughter had vomited from the upset of falling,” she said.

She began to make enquiries regarding other childminders in the area and informed the defendant that she would be having her daughter minded by relatives.

The mother told the court that an entry about the child bumping her head on 22 March wasn’t there before.

References to the child vomiting on three dates in March and to falling over on toys on 6 March were not in the diary before the date of hospitalisation, the mother testified.

Under cross-examination she agreed with Remy Farrell SC, defending, that she didn’t read all the entries in the diary every day and that she had not noticed other entries about bumps.

She further agreed that up until the beginning of March the arrangement between Higgins and her family was “working out very well”.

The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury of six men and six women.

There is a court order prohibiting publication of anything that would identify the child.

Comments have been disabled as the case continues before the courts

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Sarah Jane Murphy