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Mother whose baby suffered skull fracture, broken arm and legs walks free from court

The mother presented to her GP on 13 February 2015 when her baby was injured.

Ennis Court
Ennis Court
Image: Shutterstock/shutterupeire

A MOTHER WHOSE five-month-old baby girl suffered a catalogue of injuries in her care including a skull fracture, a broken arm and two broken legs has walked free from court.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Gerald Keys told the 23-year old woman: “I see no benefit to society, to the child, to yourself or to the father of the child by imposing a custodial sentence. I just don’t see any future in that and I don’t think that anyone will benefit from it.”

Judge Keys said that the woman’s continuing efforts to rehabilitate herself would not be possible if she was jailed and he imposed a suspended two year suspended sentence on condition that she continue to comply with the directions of a Probation Service report.

He said that the standard of care provided to the baby “fell well below of what one would one expect from a mother and was totally unacceptable”.

Judge Keys said that the mother was unable to explain why she persisted “with this behaviour towards the baby knowing that it caused her harm”.

Injuries

In the case, the mother presented to her GP on 13 February 2015 in a distressed state with the baby as her daughter’s left arm wasn’t moving and she had bruising to her face.

The doctor referred the case immediately to the paediatric unit to University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

There, medics at the hospital carried out a full skeletal survey of the baby that detected older injuries – a healing fracture of the left tibia – the larger bone on the lower left leg; a healing fracture of the right femur – the thigh bone extending from the hip to the knee – and an older right sided skull fracture.

Medics also detected a torn frenulum- the muscle under the tongue – and the child’s mother said that this could have occurred as a result of forcing a baby’s bottle or a soother into the baby’s mouth.

In the case, the woman pleaded guilty to wilfully assaulting and neglecting the child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary injury to the child’s health and seriously affect her well being.

The woman can’t be named in order to protect the identity of her child and the charge is contrary to Section 246 of the Children’s Act.

The offence took on dates between the summer of  2014 and February 2015 when the mother was aged 19.

Evidence 

In evidence, consultant paediatrician at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), Dr Barry Linnane provided care to the baby and expressed doubt over the explanations given by the mother for the injuries.

Dr Linnane said that the injuries occurred on different dates during the baby’s first five months.

Judge Keys said that a Probation Report on the mother found that the accused accepted that a lack of care for the baby caused her to suffer the injuries, but she doesn’t accept responsibility for all of the injuries caused to the child.

The judge said that the mother put the neglect down to “poor judgement, bad decision making and use of force that was unknowingly unnecessary”.

He said that the woman’s pregnancy was unplanned and the then-teenager “was subsequently ambivalent about motherhood”. He added that the mother was overwhelmed by the birth of her child and was subsequently diagnosed with postnatal depression.

Supervised access

Judge Keys said that today the child’s father has custody of the toddler and the mother had supervised access.

He said that a report records that the mother has affection for the child, but recognises that she is not ready to care for her without proper support and supervision.

“You have lost confidence in yourself after you realised the harm you have caused your child,” he said. 

The Probation Report found that the woman was at a low risk of re-offending.

Counsel for the woman, Pat Whyms BL said that the State had not proceeded with assault causing harm charge against his client and there was no evidence to support a charge that the mother had deliberately assaulted the baby.

Whyms pointed to a report from the baby’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) who he said shared the view with the mother’s clinical psychologist “that the harm incurred by the baby was unlikely that the to have been deliberately inflicted”. 

He said that his client had a deep sense of remorse over her “rough-handling of the baby”.

Counsel for the State, Philip Rahn said that the report cited by Whyms is not evidence and the evidence concerning how the injuries came about was provided by Dr Linnane.

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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