Couple 'lied' over toddler's death
A High Court judge has urged a couple to reveal what led to a 19-month-old boy suffering massive brain damage and dying.
Mr Justice Keehan concluded that the damage was caused either by the child's mother or step-father, but he said he could not decide who was the perpetrator.
The judge called on the couple to co-operate, saying they had a one-year-old daughter and decisions had to be made about her future care.
Mr Justice Keehan told the couple a loving and caring parent could momentarily lose control without meaning to harm a child. He said such actions did not make people "bad".
Details of the case have emerged in a written judgement published on a legal website following a fact-finding hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
The judge said no-one involved could be identified.
Mr Justice Keehan said in the judgement that the boy died in hospital after an ambulance was called to his home about seven months ago. The judge said the youngster had suffered "massive brain damage".
Local authority social workers had asked for a ruling on the cause of the child's death.
The judge said he had heard evidence from the boy's mother and step-father, who are both in their 20s, plus medics and a social worker.
He said both the mother and step-father denied harming the little boy.
The judge said the mother was "caring, loving and devoted" and the father a "kind and decent young man".
But he said both had lied and he concluded that they were trying protect themselves or each other.
He said the mother said her partner had called her to say "something was not right". She had "assumed" that the boy "had a fit". The step-father had "described his panic" at finding the toddler "face- down in his cot".
The judge said he was satisfied that "inflicted head trauma" was the only explanation for the child's injuries - and he said either the mother or step-father had caused the injuries.
He urged them to tell the truth for the sake of their daughter.
"In the light of the stance taken by the parents, it is not for this court to speculate how (the boy) came to be injured. All the court can find is that (his) injuries were caused non-accidentally either by the mother or by (her partner)," said Mr Justice Keehan.
"I am not able to identify which of the (couple) caused (the boy's) injuries nor am I able to exonerate one of them. Accordingly the task of undertaking a risk assessment is far more complex and a decision on the future care of (their daughter) is made much more difficult.
"The parents must understand that there are, sadly but rarely, occasions when an otherwise loving and caring parent, under the burden of the stresses and strains of life, momentarily loses control and inappropriately handles a child. There is no intention to harm the child let alone inflict serious injury. Such actions do not make them a bad person or a bad parent."
He added: "I do urge both the mother and (her partner) to reflect long and hard on this judgement. I urge them to consider what more they can and should reveal about the events which led to (the boy) suffering his fatal injuries. They should and must do so for the sake of their beloved daughter."
The judge said the little boy's father - the mother's former partner - had played no part in the proceedings.