By Paul Higgins
A former couple from Co. Armagh whose baby sustained multiple fractures to her ribs and leg walked free from court (4/4) after they were put on probation for a year.
Newry Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC said while he had considered imposing “deterrent custodial sentences,” it was his view there are features that made the case exceptional and justified the supervision order.
At an earlier hearing the baby’s mother and father, aged 21 and 22 respectively and who cannot be named to protect their daughter’s identity, entered guilty pleas to “causing it allowing a child” to suffer serious physical harm between 1-25 January 2018.
Summarising the case during his sentencing remarks, Judge Kerr outlined how the little girl was just three months old when the defendants had taken her to hospital where X-rays revealed “numerous injuries including two rib fractures and five metaphyseal fractures to her shoulder, knee, tibia and fibula” likely caused about ten days beforehand.
“In the view of a consultant paediatric radiologist, the presence of multiple fractures at different sites, particularly the rib fractures, are most indicative of metaphyseal, non-accidental injury, commonly caused by excessive shaking,” said the judge adding that clearly, the baby “would have undoubtedly experienced pain and distress.”
While the matter was “properly investigated” and Social Services became involved and “took effective steps to prevent her from suffering harm,” the investigation was not able to establish who was actually responsible so the pair had pleaded guilty “to wilful neglect in a manner likely to cause suffering.”
Judge Kerr revealed that the defendants, who were just 16 and 17 when they became parents, were no longer together, that the child is back living together with mum and that her father is beginning contact again, all under the supervision of social services and all of which was “positive for the child.”
With that in mind, the judge said the public interest was best served by the 12 month probation order.