CATASTROPHIC injuries suffered by a baby girl in her parents’ care have defied medical explanation and top judges have said they may always remain a mystery.
The girl was just five months old when she was admitted to hospital with at least three broken ribs and what one doctor described as ‘spectacular’ skull fractures.
Medics were amazed that the ‘crazing’ of the girl’s skull had not caused severe brain damage and four experts have since described her injuries as ‘unprecedented and unique’ in their experience.
The girl’s parents were suspected of causing the injuries, but their lawyers insisted they were not responsible and argued their baby’s injuries could be the result of a bone condition hitherto unknown to medical science.
At Swindon County Court earlier this year, Judge Katharine Marshall described the injuries as ‘perplexing’ and said they had probably been caused by one or other of her parents, although she could not say which.
But now the Court of Appeal has overturned that decision and accepted that the baby’s injuries are ‘inexplicable by reference to conventional medical opinion and experience’ and that the cause may always remain a conundrum.
Directing a re-hearing of the case, Lord Justice Munby acknowledged that on current medical knowledge, it may be a case where no finding was possible.
Allowing the parents’ appeal, Lord Justice Munby, sitting with Lord Justice Kitchin and Sir Stephen Sedley, said: “It must follow from the inability of conventional learning to explain the skull fractures and that the judge’s findings in relation to the rib fractures are also vulnerable.”
Directing a re-hearing, he added: “It may be that even an extensive search of the literature will produce nothing, in which case the judge may be faced by the same inexplicable mystery as confronted Judge Marshall.
“Is it possible on the totality of the evidence to come to a finding despite the unexplained mystery?
“Or is this case one where no finding is possible?”
The outcome of the re-hearing is bound to have a critical impact on the baby girl’s future. If her parents remain under suspicion, the chances of their daughter being returned to her care would be remote.