Non-accidental injuries to children
‘Non-accidental injury’ is a term which covers a wide range of abuse and injuries. The most common types of injuries that our clients are wrongly accused of causing include:
Shaken baby syndrome
Shaken baby syndrome is a form of abuse resulting in serious brain injury which is caused by the violent and forceful shaking of a child. This is a deliberate form of abuse and if you suspect that your child or another child is the victim of shaken baby syndrome it is important that you seek medical attention for them immediately. Some of the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome are similar to those of other conditions such as genetic disorders and bleeding disorders, which can usually be diagnosed or ruled out by a blood test.
Unexplained fractures in young children, before walking age, can also lead to allegations of non-accidental injury. Although accidental fractures can occur due to clumsiness on the part of the child’s parents or carers they can also point to bone fragility disorders or abuse. Clinical interviews are often where concern as to whether the fractures are non-accidental first arise.
Proceedings for non-accidental injury cases
These injuries can have a life-long impact on the child in question and so if your child or another child you are concerned about have suffered any of the above injuries, and other conditions have been ruled out, it is important to find out how the injuries were sustained and who, if anyone, is responsible.
A finding of fact hearing will consider if there is any evidence surrounding the allegations of the non-accidental injury. Any person who is at risk of a finding against them must have the opportunity to be a part of the proceedings and be given the chance to make their case. It is vital that they seek legal advice and representation. If a vulnerable adult is at risk of a finding against them they should be provided with help in the form of an intermediary.
To make a care order the court will need to prove that the child suffered either at the hands of their parents or other carers without needing to establish exactly who it was that caused the child harm. In these cases the ‘burden of proof’ falls on whoever has made the allegation of non-accidental injury which is in most cases the local authority. This means that it is the local authority’s responsibility to prove that the alleged perpetrator caused the injury and not the alleged perpetrator’s responsibility to prove that they did not cause the injury.
If evidence does not point to a single individual the court will try to identify a ‘pool of possible perpetrators’. This will allow the court to determine whether the parents or carers for the child were to blame for the injuries or whether the injuries may have occurred at the hands of another group of individuals such as somebody at nursery or school.
If you as a parent, relative or carer of a child who has suffered a non-accidental injury are identified as being in the ‘pool of possible perpetrators’ it can seriously damage your family life, now and in the future in the event that findings are made that you have caused the injuries. It is therefore vital that you seek urgent advice and representation.
Why choose Stephensons?
Stephensons work with specialists who are dedicated to working with parents, relatives, carers and children to obtain the relevant evidence needed to investigate such cases. We offer reassurance to all our clients by clarifying any concerns and explaining our actions every step of the way whilst offering legal support, advice and representation at court.
Our family team includes accredited members of The Law Society’s Children Panel and Resolution. We continue to work hard to protect children at risk of abuse and strengthen families by finding different ways in which we can provide a service to clients who are seeking access to justice.
To speak with one of our legal advisors call us on 01616 966 229.
Case study - Baby's injury proven to be accidental: Mrs. H was visiting her family in Manchester for a week. She had her baby, J, aged eight months and her two other children, three and five. She was staying with her mother, grandmother and younger brother. Her two sisters lived close by with their families. Read more