(Family Division, Pauffley J, 15 October 2013)
The 6-month-old child was admitted to hospital after an apparent fall at home. She was found to have multiple metaphyseal fractures, bite marks and bruises. The child and her older brother were placed with foster carers and care proceedings were initiated.
The parents accepted that the threshold was crossed due to a lack of supervision and allowing the child to fall and hurt her arm. The father admitted that he had bitten the child after initially blaming the older child. They sought a return of the children to their care.
One of the issues raised during proceedings was whether the fractures sustained by the child could have been the early signs of rickets. The evidence of the consultant paediatrician and paediatric endocrinologist was that while the child's Vitamin D levels were low they were not in the deficient range and would not usually be sufficient to cause rickets. He further submitted that even if the child had early stage rickets, there would have been no increase in her susceptibility to fractures.
The consultant radiologist was of the opinion that the child's x-rays demonstrated metaphyseal fractures and not the early stages of rickets.
The father also put forward the possibility that the fractures may have been caused by him giving the child traditional massages which he admitted were quite forceful. However, the medical experts were clear that the child would have been in pain and showing signs of distress at the time if this had been the case.
On the balance of probabilities the child had sustained the fractures as a result of significant and excessive force. The explanations offered by the parents did not provide remotely plausible accounts for the injuries. In particular in relation to the child's apparent fall from the kitchen work surface there were a number of inconsistencies, unanswered questions and improbabilities such that the judge was compelled to find that the fracture to the child's arm was not an accident but an inflicted injury.
It was not possible to identify which parent had caused the injuries to the child but the threshold had been crossed and there remained a serious risk of physical assault to the children.