A five-month-old girl suffered a catalogue of injuries including a skull fracture, a broken arm along with a broken left and broken right leg under the care of her then 19-year-old mother.
At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, Garda Hilda Moloney said the mother presented to her GP, Dr Conor Magee on February 13, 2015, in a distressed state with the baby as her daughter’s left arm was not moving and she had bruising to her face.
Dr Magee referred the case immediately to the paediatric unit to University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
There, medics carried out a full skeletal survey of the baby that detected older injuries — a healing fracture of the larger bone on the lower left leg; a healing fracture of the right thigh bone; and an older right sided skull fracture.
Medics also detected a torn frenulum — the muscle under the tongue — and the child’s mother said this could have occurred as a result of forcing a baby’s bottle or a soother into the baby’s mouth.
The now 22-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to wilfully assaulting and neglecting the child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary injury to the child’s health and seriously affect her wellbeing.
The charge is contrary to Section 246 of the Children’s Act. The offence took on dates between the summer of 2014 and February 2015.
Patrick Whyms BL, for the mother, said the State had not proceeded with an assault causing harm charge and there was no evidence to support a charge that the mother had deliberately assaulted the baby.
He said: “Throughout the statements in the book of evidence, we have stories of people observing this baby treated in a manner which would cause people to recoil.”
Mr Whyms said: “We have nobody saying that they ever saw the mother attempt to deliberately injure this baby.”
He went on: “Of course, this baby has sustained a catalogue of injuries and of course it is the duty of the parents to protect her, but there is no evidence that it was the mother’s purpose to injure the baby. Clearly, the baby has been treated in too rough a fashion by far and has sustained these injuries.”
The mother was diagnosed with post-natal depression in October 2014. She is allowed supervised access with the baby with relatives twice a week.
Consultant paediatrician at UHL Dr Barry Linnane provided care to the baby and in evidence yesterday, expressed doubt over the explanations given by the mother for the injuries. He said the injuries occurred on different dates during the baby’s first five months.
In relation to the bruising on the child’s right cheek, the mother said this occurred as a result of her sucking the baby’s cheek. Dr Linnane said this was unlikely.
The mother said the injury to the arm occurred as a result of her catching the baby’s arm as she fell and Dr Linnane said this explanation was difficult to understand and unlikely.
The mother said the baby sustained her leg injuries after falling out of a pram and Dr Linnane said: “It is very difficult to understand how a baby could fall from a pram and even if that did happen, you wouldn’t expect two fractures, which were of a different age.” The mother told gardaí the skull fracture may have occurred when the child fell out of a bouncer and hit her head on the wall or may have occurred when she fell on the floor with the baby in her arms. Again, Dr Linnane said the two explanations were unlikely to explain the injuries as significant force would be required to cause them.
Judge Gerard Keys directed the mother engage with the Probation Services and adjourned sentencing.
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