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Non-accidental injury (NAI) is a term which is used to refer to many different types of physical injury or abuse, for example:
- Non-accidental head injury (NAHI previously known as shaken baby syndrome)
- The triad (the term used to describe a collection of symptoms suggestive of NAHI)
- Brain injury (e.g. contusion, subdural or subarachnoid haemorrhage, hypoxic-ischaemic injury)
- Eye injury (e.g. retinal haemorrhage, sub conjunctival haemorrhage)
- Bony injury (e.g. fractures, metaphyseal lesions/fractures, periosteal reaction)
- Skin injury (e.g. bruising, petechiae, blisters, torn frenulum)
- Fabricated or induced illness (Munchausen’s syndrome, poisoning)
- Infant death
Where a non-accidental injury is suspected, there are many issues that will need to be considered including the timing/age of the alleged injury, the degree of force needed to cause it, how such an injury can be caused (the mechanism), the presentation of the child and, most importantly, the differentiation between natural causes (medical conditions), accidental causes and non-accidental causes.
When an injury has been identified, either with no explanation or with an explanation that the doctors do not accept, it is likely that social services will become involved and the Local Authority will start care proceedings. It is vital that parents seek legal advice from an experienced care solicitor as soon as possible where non-accidental injury is suspected.
I have worked almost exclusively in complex care proceedings and non-accidental injury for many years; I joined Wollen Michelmore in February 2012 and continue to focus my work on the representation of parents (I am a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel). I represent parents and carers all over England and Wales who have been accused of injuring a child. This work covers all levels of court, from the County Court and High Court to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. This area of law and medicine changes regularly and swiftly; many of the cases that I have been involved in have paved the way in this ever advancing area.
Below are a few of the many cases in which I have successfully represented a parent in the last 12 months. I have been working in this field for many years and have extensive experience in defending parents against such allegations. For a full list of my cases click here.
Re B (2016) – Mother – Allegations of non-accidental head injury (shaking) – Location: South Coast
The parents were accused of shaking their youngest child who was found to have subdural and retinal haemorrhaging. The chid was also noted to have benign enlarged subarachnoid spaces (BESS). The experts all agreed that on balance there was a chronic subdural haemorrhage and birth could not be excluded as a cause of this. Further, that the BESS could predispose to subdural bleeding following a minor incident and subsequently the acute blood was likely to be the result of the child falling over. Subsequently, the local authority sought to withdraw their applications for care orders.
Re S (2016) – Mother – Allegations of non-accidental head injury (shaking) – Location: London
We successfully defended the mother against allegations of shaken baby syndrome. She was exonerated of caused any hard to her child and the returned to live with the child immediately whilst father undergoes risk assessment.
Re B (2016) – Mother – Allegations of non-accidental head injury (shaking) – Location: North West
Both parents were accused of shaking one of their children after intracranial injuries were found. We represented the mother who was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Re H (2016) – Father – Fractures and bruising – Location: South West
I represented a father in care proceedings involving his two young children. The youngest had been found to have several rib fractures as well as bruising. After exploration of the medical evidence and an in-depth parenting assessment the children were returned to their parent’s care.
Re C (2015) – Mother – Bruising – Location: South East
Extensive bruising was found on a young infant which lead to allegations of NAI. My client was removed from the pool of perpetrators and her children were returned home.
Re P (2015) – Mother – Skull fracture – Location: South East
The mother was accused of causing a skull fracture to her young daughter. By exploring the mother’s own medical history we were able to obtain a diagnosis of EDS. The court would now allow an EDS expert to be instructed and instead used an endocrinologist (who accepted a lack of knowledge of EDS when giving evidence). In any event, threshold was not met and the mother was cleared of causing the fracture. Her daughter was returned to her care immediately.
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