Increase in child non-accidental injury charges

More prosecutions are being brought in cases in which children receive non-accidental injuries, according to a solicitor who advises state bodies in associated court cases.

Denise Kirwan of Comyn Kelleher Tobin Solicitors in Cork said the DPP is now “more proactive” in bringing charges in cases where children are harmed, including cases involving injuries to babies in which parents are suspected of being involved.

Ms Kirwan has advised Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, in undertaking some cases, and said: “They are happening more often.”

She said she has personally dealt with more cases of non-accidental injuries in children in recent years, and while the number of cases coming to the attention of medical professionals is not necessarily on the increase, more are making it to courts.

Increase in child non-accidental injury charges

“We are seeing more prosecutions. I do believe that the DPP is becoming more proactive. I think a greater awareness has something to do with it.”

Ms Kirwan was speaking at a conference organised by the Bessborough Centre on non-accidental head injury involving babies and parents.

During her presentation she also referred to a district court case in West Cork in which an expert had travelled from overseas to give evidence on behalf of the parents. She said online research showed the person was presented as a pathologist but was actually a veterinary pathologist; had no medical training; and had never conducted a postmortem.

Ms Kirwan said the case brought home to her how much overseas experts charge parents to give evidence in these cases.

The conference heard that instances of babies suffering serious non-accidental head injuries are rare, although there is a question as to whether the cases are under-reported.

Another participant, Pat Kelleher, social work team leader in the South Lee Social Work Department in Cork City, said there is a “strong moral case” for prevention of such cases.


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