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Baby injuries trial jury fails to reach verdict on accused

By Declan Brennan

Published 26/06/2015

A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a childminder from Northern Ireland accused of causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby
A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a childminder from Northern Ireland accused of causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby

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

Registered childminder Sandra Higgins (34) had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby girl on March 28, 2012.

Ms Higgins was born in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh but moved to Co Cavan in her youth, where she still lives at The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town.

The trial heard the child was fine that morning and during the day. At around 5pm Ms Higgins took her to Cavan General Hospital where she presented with a brain bleed, detached retina and fractured ribs. She continued to have seizures for five days.

The prosecution alleged that the baby's symptoms were consistent with a violent shaking. Doctors who treated the baby girl said it was highly likely that the injuries to the child happened while she was in the care of Ms Higgins and that the injuries were non-accidental.

Expert witnesses for the defence said the evidence was more suggestive of a head trauma and could have been the re-activation of an old injury. Ms Higgins told gardai that she cared for the baby like her own children and that she never assaulted her.

Yesterday, the jury foreman handed in a note to the Judge Patricia Ryan and stated: "We cannot reach a unanimous or majority verdict and do not believe we will do so with any more time.".

It was day eight of the trial and the jury had deliberated for just under six hours.

Ms Higgins was remanded on continuing bail and the case has been listed for mention again at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court next week.

A consultant paediatrician Dr Alan Finan old the trial retinal detachment, retinal haemorrhaging and the subdural haemorrhaging were significant indicators of a shaking injury.

But defence witness Dr Julie Mack, who specialises in paediatric radiology, said the bleeding she identified on brain scans of the child was too small to represent the rupture of larger blood vessels associated with baby shaking.

Remy Farrell SC, defending, argued the injuries were consistent with a trauma that occurred before the date of the alleged assault. "It's blindingly obvious whatever event occurred weeks before could have caused a subdural haemorrhage," he said.

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