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Kara Swift
Kara Swift
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FACT-FINDING HEARING: Devon County Council v EB and Others [2013] EWHC 968 (Fam)

Date:1 MAY 2013
Law Reporter

(Family Division, Baker J, 22 February 2013)

When twin babies both suffered subdural haemorrhages and bone fractures the local authority initiated care proceedings on the basis that the injuries were non accidental. Upon discharge from hospital the children lived with their parents and maternal grandparents under a written agreement with the local authority.

While living with the grandparents the mother gave birth to a third child who also suffered skull fractures and subdural haemorrhages after apparently falling out of the Moses basket. As a result the local authority sought interim care orders and removal of the children from the family.

At an interim hearing the explanation for the child's injuries was accepted as being consistent with the medical evidence. The children remained with the maternal grandparents pending the final hearing which would include more detailed medical evidence including an opinion on the relevance of the parents' respective genetic medical conditions including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and joint hyper mobility syndrome.

Evidence from a consultant in connective tissue genetics revealed that it was possible that the conditions had been passed to the children and especially so given that members of the mother's family had also been diagnosed with EDS.

It was striking that the children had hardly any external signs of their injuries and that they had been seen frequently by a range of health professionals prior to their hospital admissions and no marks had been noted on either child.

The family medical history was complex and the parents both separately and together had an unusual number of medical conditions, the effects of which if they had been transferred to the children was unknown.

The local authority had failed to discharge the burden of proof and the threshold had not been met. The parents were found to be truthful and honest parents who were besotted with their children. It was unlikely that the injuries were caused by a momentary loss of self control by one of the parents on at least four occasions, as contended for by the local authority.

The case demonstrated the importance of a full and thorough investigation of suspected child abuse, involving a range of experts from different disciplines and of the crucial role of the specialist family law bar and solicitors.