The ‘S’ Family Share their experience of NAI
The ‘S’ family went through complex and lengthy care proceedings but came through it to be cleared of non-accidental injury. Having represented the father within those proceedings, they have been kind enough to allow me to share their experience on this blog (anonymised, of course).
Our beautiful baby boy was born after a fairly short and uneventful labour. He was a very happy, settled baby for the first 10 days of his life. At Day 10, however, things took a turn for the worse. He became extremely unsettled, crying non-stop and was very difficult to settle. At five and a half weeks, with things still not right, we took him to the ‘walk in’ hospital where we waited five hours before being seen. When he was being checked over he suffered a convulsion, which was stopped by giving anti-convulsion medicine. As the doctors could not establish what was wrong, he was taken for a brain scan, and it was this that caused our world to fall apart. The brain scan showed that there had been a subdural haematoma. At first it was said it was an old bleed (chronic), but then it was suggested it was a recent bleed (acute), and then further information came back stating it was a chronic bleed but with acute aspects.
We were immediately taken into a room and questioned by the paediatrician as to whether or not we had done something that could have caused this to our baby and it was implied that this injury could only be caused by some sort of shaking motion.
We were visited early the next morning by police, social workers and the doctor. We were informed that we were only allowed to spend one hour supervised with our baby, and that our four year old son could only stay at home with us if we had constant 24 hr supervision.
In the meantime my husband and I were taken to separate rooms and interviewed by police. We had a police photographer taking pictures of our little baby, our house, and social workers coming round to our house to do assessment after assessment.
It was finally agreed that after five days of our baby being in hospital they would allow him home with us, provided of course that there was 24 hour supervision in place. This we now believe is very rare, as in most cases they remove the child/children and place them in care. We are to this day truly grateful that this was the situation in our case. As difficult as the next 14 months were, we were all together in one house and we could, for the sake of our 4 year old, try and get life as back to normal as possible.
We were arrested at our home at 6am one morning, we spent a day in a jail cell. A second medical report that the police were waiting for had come back – and this time, instead of being inconclusive (like the initial report) this one came back as pointing all fingers to us, and that one of us had shaken our baby to cause a bleed on his brain. As our baby had shown retinal haemorrhaging and the subdural haematoma, coupled with brain swelling, this caused the “triad” which (in the medical profession) confirms shaken baby syndrome.
We were bailed to return to the police station but thankfully a couple of months later the criminal case was dropped due to “insufficient evidence”. We thought it wouldn’t be long before the family side came to the same conclusion, however… we were wrong.
Our solicitors continued to gather evidence and medical reports based on what information they had gathered from doctors etc., not all of which were correct. For example, it was stated that there was no history of easy bleeding/bruising in the family, which was not correct. There were other inconsistencies, and these were all painstakingly jotted down during meeting upon meeting with solicitors, court dates etc. My husband and I had to be represented separately; thankfully this didn’t affect us, but I can see now, looking back, how this can easily tear a couple apart.
We continued working with the legal team and once all the medical reports were in, we had a date for our Finding of Fact Hearing. As the medical evidence showed various possible explanations for the bleed on our son’s brain, the Local Authority withdrew their case against us in the middle of the fact finding hearing; 14 months after our nightmare began, it all ended.
To this day, we are thankful for the way in which our case was handled – although living with someone monitoring your every move 24/7 is not easy, and emotionally and physically you are pushed to your very limits. I have seen and heard of cases that did not go as smoothly as ours. Families that have been torn apart, parents wrongly jailed for a crime they have not committed and so on. We are very blessed to have come out the other side, and still be together as a family.