It is every parent's worst nightmare to be accused of injuring their child. However, as a Family Court ruling showed, such allegations are subject to intense judicial scrutiny, which in some cases results in complete exoneration.
An autistic toddler was taken to hospital with severe multiple bruises to her face and back, together with scratches and blood spots on her eyeballs. Concerns were raised that the injuries were non-accidental and, at a local authority's behest, emergency protection and interim care orders were made. She was removed from her mother's care and sent to live with her great-grandparents.
At a fact-finding hearing, the mother described the girl as a baby in a toddler's body. Although a very loving child, she was hyperactive and quite angry at times. Showing no fear, she tended to bite and scratch herself and throw herself around. She often banged her head, pulled out her hair and poked herself in the eye.
Having viewed shocking photographs of the child's injuries, the Court noted that its initial view was that someone must have caused them. After hearing evidence from family members, social workers and medical experts, however, it noted that life is sometimes stranger than fiction. The Court concluded that it was an exceptionally rare case in which all of the child's injuries were self-inflicted.
The Court acknowledged that the proceedings and separation from her daughter had been a nightmare experience for the mother. However, the child's injuries demanded an investigation and the local authority had acted entirely properly. The Court paid tribute to the great-grandparents, who, by giving the girl a home, had saved her from being taken into care.