When children suffer unexplained injuries, few would quarrel with social workers and medical professionals taking a precautionary approach. However, as a family judge’s ruling showed, the cloud of suspicion that often hangs over parents in such cases is not always justified.
The case concerned a baby boy who was observed to have suffered bruising at his two-month check-up. He was referred to hospital where, according to a radiologist, a CT scan indicated a non-displaced skull fracture. After the local authority took protective measures, the boy’s parents very responsibly consented to him and his elder brother going to live temporarily with their maternal grandfather.
Following a full investigation, a consultant paediatric radiologist reported that, in his view, the CT scan was within the normal range and did not indicate a skull fracture. A further report from a consultant paediatrician stated that the bruising observed was consistent with the mother’s account that she may have held the boy’s legs too tightly whilst changing a soiled nappy. In the light of those expert opinions, the council applied to withdraw care proceedings.
Granting the application, the judge apologised to the parents for what they had been through. They had been separated from their children for more than two months and contact with them had been made more difficult by the COVID-19 lockdown. Given the initial view taken of the boy’s condition, however, the local authority had acted entirely responsibly in taking steps to protect the children.
The judge directed the council to inform all appropriate bodies about the outcome of the case. The expert reports would also be released to the police to ensure that no action was taken against the parents. The consultant radiologist’s report would be sent to the hospital where the boy was first examined for use in training so that, hopefully, a similar incident did not recur in the future.