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Couple wrongly accused of abuse 'unlikely to see adopted child again'

Published 09/10/2015

Karrissa Cox and Richard Carter's baby was taken into care and later adopted by authorities who believed they had abused the child
Karrissa Cox and Richard Carter's baby was taken into care and later adopted by authorities who believed they had abused the child

A couple wrongly accused of abusing their child who was later adopted are "likely never to see their baby again," according to their lawyer.

Karrissa Cox and Richard Carter, both aged 25, were found not guilty at Guildford Crown Court of child cruelty and neglect more than three years after they took the child to hospital. The baby had been bleeding in the mouth.

Doctors, who feared child abuse after finding bruising on the six-week-old's body and "healing fractures" on an X-ray, called for social services to step in.

The hospital check started off a heartbreaking chain of events in which the parents saw their baby taken in to care and later adopted following a ruling of abuse by the family courts as they were accused of causing injury to their baby.

The first-time parents from Guildford, Surrey, who were cleared by the court on Wednesday, said in a statement: "We took our child to the hospital seeking help and they stole our baby from us."

Despite plans to try and overturn the adoption, their lawyer Michael Turner, of Garden Court Chambers, fears they may not see the child again.

He said: "These innocent parents have been spared a criminal conviction and a prison sentence for a crime they never committed.

"Their life sentence is that they are likely never to see their baby again."

Mr Carter, an Afghanistan war veteran, told BBC Surrey that he is not giving up hope. "I am more than determined. It is my child and I will go down fighting," he said.

The court had been told that defence experts discovered the child was suffering from a blood disorder called Von Willebrands II, which causes a person to bruise easily, as well as a vitamin D deficiency and infantile rickets.

After contesting the defence expert evidence, the prosecution engaged an independent radiologist, who concluded he doubted there were any fractures at all.

That led prosecutors to offer no evidence and not guilty verdicts to be entered, according to Garden Court Chambers.

The couple had been allowed supervised contact with the child when in care until the youngster was adopted last year.

After the hearing Ms Cox told the Daily Mirror: "It is heartbreaking to know our child is out there, living and breathing in someone else's arms.

"We miss our child a lot. We wish we had our child back. The pain has never got any less. We see people out and about with their children and can only think, 'Why us? Why did they take our child away from us for no reason?'"

Emma Fenn, of Garden Court Chambers, said: "This tragic case highlights the real dangers of the Government's drive to increase adoption and speed up family proceedings at all costs.

"It also shows the perils of the continued inaction relating to a nationwide epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and rickets and the grave injustice that can result when relying on the opinions of medical professionals alone to conclude child abuse."

A spokesman for The Royal Surrey County Hospital said that "children's safety is paramount" to all staff but that "e xtensive bruising in a non-independently mobile child is always a trigger for further questions to be asked."

In a statement he added: "The Surrey Safeguarding Children's Board has recently strengthened their position on this with the introduction of a protocol on bruising.

"In this particular case, for the child's safety, the baby was admitted to the Royal Surrey on the day of presentation and full assessments were undertaken by senior doctors in paediatrics and radiology, one of whom was our named doctor for safeguarding. Based on these assessments a referral was made to Children's Social Care.

"No decision about a child's well-being is based on a single agency opinion."

Decisions are made over time by health, police and children's social care and are based on a range of factors, the spokesman said.

A Surrey County Council spokesman said: "Any case like this is really difficult and we're always sensitive to the distress it will cause all involved, but our main concern has to be the welfare of the child.

"Our decision in this case was taken on the basis of the medical evidence provided and the finding of the family court which, having heard the evidence, took the view it was right for the child to be removed from their parents."

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