(Family Division, Baker J, 1 July 2013)
A fact-finding hearing concluded that the father had been responsible for inflicting a non-accidental heard injury on the child when she was 6 months old. The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial on the ground that the judge had failed to make appropriate allowance for the father's learning difficulties resulting in him not receiving a fair hearing.
In preparation for the hearing a comprehensive assessment of the father was conducted and a number of steps were taken to assist the father during the hearing. He was provided with an intermediary in addition to his litigation friend and counsel were instructed on the best way in which to question him.
Baker J drew attention to the problems faced by learning disabled parents involved in care proceedings and provided guidance on best practice.
Applying the well established principles the judge found that the child suffered a minor injury comprising of bruises, subdural and retinal haemorrhages and encephalopathy while in the care of the father. It was possible that the injuries sustained by the child were partially as a result of the father's imperfect understanding of the risks to a small baby. Although some people involved with the family were aware of the father's level of understanding, no steps were taken to provide him with assistance. The mother was absolved of any responsibility for the injuries.