Childminder on trial over injuries to baby girl

A registered childminder has gone on trial charged with causing serious harm to a 10-month-old girl.

Childminder on trial over injuries to baby girl

On the first day of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the infant’s mother testified that her daughter was fine on the morning of March 28, 2012, when she dropped her to the home of Sandra Higgins.

Ms Higgins, aged 34, of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan, has pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home on March 28, 2012.

At around 4.30pm that day, Ms Higgins brought the baby to the A&E ward of Cavan General hospital.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, told the jury they would hear evidence the child was suffering active seizures and had extensive bruising around the face and both sides of the head. Opening the State’s case, Mr Gillane said a medical expert will say retinal haemorrhaging suffered by the infant was consistent with violent shaking injury which was not accidental.

The baby’s mother told the court she went to the hospital after receiving a call from Ms Higgins from the hospital and told her the infant had had some kind of a fit or seizure.

“She said [the child] was fine all day. She had a sleep. She had her tea. She just sat down on the floor to play and vomited and had a seizure,” the witness said.

She said when she got to the hospital her child was unconscious.

“I was very upset. I couldn’t believe it. [She] had been fine that morning.”

She noticed the infant had a swelling between her eyebrows and asked Ms Higgins about this, she said. Ms Higgins told her the girl had been fine all day and said she had not fallen or bumped her head.

Over the next days, the baby was subject to a number of examinations and a doctor told her she had two rib fractures that were three to four weeks old. There was also medical opinion that some of the injuries were the result of violent shaking.

The court heard that in early 2012 there were incidents of the child having bumps and bruises. Her parents were concerned Ms Higgins “wasn’t keeping a close enough eye” on the infant and began looking for an alternative childminder.

After an investigation was launched, the mother of the girl told gardaí that she was concerned that some of the entries in a childminding diary kept by Ms Higgins had been changed or added to .

She told the court an entry about the child bumping her head on March 22 was not there before.

The child’s father told the jury that, in February, the girl had bumped her head off the fireplace at the family home, leaving her with a “slight red mark” on her face.

The trial is set to run for six days before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of eight men and four women. There is a court order prohibiting publication of anything that would identify the child.

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