Jury fails to reach verdict in baby case

A jury failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a registered childminder accused of causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby.

Jury fails to reach verdict in baby case

Sandra Higgins, 34, of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, Co Cavan, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby girl on March 28, 2012.

The trial had heard the baby had been fine that morning and during the day. But, around 5pm, Ms Higgins brought her to Cavan General Hospital where the girl presented with a brain bleed, detached retina, and fractured ribs. She continued to have seizures for five days.

The prosecution alleged the baby’s symptoms were consistent with a violent shaking. But expert witnesses for the defence had said the evidence was more suggestive of a head trauma and could have been the re-activation of an old injury.

Ms Higgins had told gardaí she cared for the baby like her own children and never assaulted her.

Yesterday, on day eight of the trial, the jury told the judge they were unable to reach either a unanimous or majority verdict, after deliberating for around six hours.

The foreman handed a note to Judge Patricia Ryan stating: “We cannot reach a unanimous or majority verdict and do not believe we will do so with any more time.”

The judge thanked and discharged them. She remanded Ms Higgins on continuing bail and listed the case for mention again before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court next Thursday.

Before being discharged, the jury had asked to hear evidence of the child’s vital signs as given by the consultant paediatrician and from a UK neuropathologist called by the defence.

They had also asked for another definition of the term ‘reckless’. The judge told them: “A person is reckless when they perceive the risk of that harm and ignore same by culpably proceeding with the action. So they fly in the face of reality.”

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