Brendan Fleming Solicitors are committed to providing justice for parents who have been wrongly accused of causing injuries to their children. To this end, we have created a dedicated Non-Accidental Injury (NIA) Department. Brendan Fleming Solicitors have earned a UK wide reputation as being experts in this specialised field of family law, and deal with all clients in a caring, down to earth and professional manner.
We represent parents who have been wrongly accused of causing injury to their child whether this be in respect of bruising, fractures, injuries to the eyes, head injuries and unexplained infant death just to list a few. We also represent parents when they have been accused of Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) also sometimes called Munchausen Syndrome. There are also cases that concern alleged poisoning of a child.
Below are the most common types and signs of Non-Accidental Injury
The loss of a child is one of the most devastating things that could happen to a parent. Sometimes a child’s death can be explained by way of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or natural causation. However, there are times when the cause of death is unknown, or the circumstances are suspicious. Some parents find themselves being investigated for causing or allowing the death of their child. If other children are involved children’s services may become involved with those children being removed from the care of the parents whilst the investigations are ongoing, and the cause of death established.
Many people, including children, have Vitamin D deficiencies. When babies are in utero they take a supply of their Vitamin D from their mother. Needless to say there are some theories that if the mother is Vitamin D deficient then the child will be as well upon birth. Similarly, when a child is breast fed from a mother with a deficiency the child would not be having enough of the vitamin. However, each person is individual. We get Vitamin D from food and sunlight. If a child gets Vitamin D then their supply will be restored if it was at some point deficient. There can be difficulties when a child does not have enough Vitamin D.
There are causal links between Vitamin D deficiencies and fractures in young babies. It is thought a deficiency could lead to weaker bones. In severe cases a child may develop Ricketts. This is a difficult illness to detect in young children and it is usually difficult, unless severe, to have radiological evidence of a Vitamin D deficiency and thus biochemical tests may be required. Even if a child has a Vitamin D deficiency it does not necessarily mean that the child would be more susceptible to fractures or that less force would be required. Medical research and knowledge on this issue is advancing.
Alongside Vitamin D deficiencies, there may be deficiencies of Vitamin C (Scurvy), Copper (Menkes Disease) and many other childhood illnesses which all have to be explored by the medical professionals involved in the care of a child.
There may also be haematological abnormalities which may result in a child’s blood not being able to clot properly.
There are many deficiencies that may affect the make up of a child and these all have to be explored and ruled out as a potential cause or contribution to injuries sustained by children.
Mouth injuries are not different to any other injuries that children may sustain. In children they can range from bruising around the mouth, tears in the mouth through to damage to teeth and can indicate physical or sexual abuse and/or neglect, which is why any concerns must be investigation by children’s services. If a child has been forced to consume a hot substance then there may also be evidence of burns.
If your child has sustained an injury to one or more of their teeth, you will be questioned by the dentist examining your child as to how it happened. If they suspect the injury was caused by abuse or neglect, then they have a duty to inform authorities.
Torn frenulums are often thought to be a sign of physical abuse in a child and are uncommonly seen in hospitals. They are checked for as part of medical examinations of the child and often you will see ‘frenulum intact’ in medical records if there is no injury or abnormality. There are 3 frenula’s within the mouth, all of which would be checked for signs of injury. There is one under the tongue, one inside the lower lip and one inside the upper lip. Each are capable of being damaged. As they are relatively protected any sign of injury is usually considered to be suspicious.
Medical professionals are required to look out for signs of abuse when presented with this type of injury because it can be caused by a blow to the mouth or through forcing an object into it.
This is an extremely common area of injury and one that often leads to the involvement of children’s services where they occur in children who are not yet considered to be mobile or when an explanation is not consistent with the injury observed. When a child is non mobile bruising is suspicious as they could not cause the injury to themselves without a carer having observed the cause and also, they do not have the required physical force to cause this to themselves. Therefore, caution calls into question whether they could have been inflicted upon them.
With mobile children the issue is whether the bruises are of a ‘normal’ childhood injury occurring in normal handling and normal play. However, children who present with excessive bruising or unexplained bruising causes concern.
Bruises are observed in a number of way from individual marks to patterns of marks. Some have formed the typical hand/grab mark pattern with the linear distinction of the fingers and ‘classic’ palm-print area. Some present as finger tip bruising. Others may be circular in appearance. Sometimes there are petichae markings which are minute red/ purple spots on the surface of the skin as a result of tiny bleeds of the blood vessels under the skin. Sometimes bruising may be caused through an impact injury with an object whether yielding or unyielding or handling that is considered beyond normal. Bruises come in all shapes and sizes and also colours. This causes concerns from professionals involved with children.
Bruising can occur on all parts of the body, it is not specific. However, there are some areas which are more alerting than others for example, genital bruising, bruising to the pinnae of the ears, the fleshy parts of the cheek, the back, abdomen etc.
It is important when considering bruising to a child whether there may be some underlying reason/ cause which may pre-dispose a child to bruise easier than a normal child. Therefore, clotting tests should be done at the hospital to rule out coagulation disorders. A haematologist may be instructed to assist on such matters to establish if there is any abnormality with the blood.
It is also important to remember that some medical conditions have symptoms associated with easy/ spontaneous bruising such as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
There some medical conditions which can mimic bruising such as Acute Haemorrhagic Odema of Infancy and Phytophotodermalitis which can present with bruise like pigmentation of the skin. There are also Mongolian Blue Spots to be considered which are sometimes mistaken for bruising.
EDS, is a genetic connective tissue disorder which may predispose the sufferer to easy bruising and/or easy bleeding. EDS is an inherited condition, usually from a parent or blood relative and is characterised by various physical features of varying severity. There are currently known to be 6 different types of EDS from hypermobility type (EDS-HT) which can be characterised by hypermobile joints, increased skin elasticity and the skin having a silky appearance and feel, to the most severe degree which can cause spontaneous rupturing of the blood vessels and other chronic and potentially life threatening physical manifestations.
In the context of Non-Accidental Injury, EDS can be identified as a contributory factor in some injuries such as bruising and haemorrhaging. EDS is becoming increasingly recognised as a contributory cause in some NAI cases where it is identified through genetic assessment. Where an assessment for EDS is justified, usually through the exploration of family medical histories and the identification of certain medical characteristics which may point towards the presence of this condition, EDS can explain the presence of, for example, bruising or haemorrhaging through apparently minor trauma. Most of the EDS types are incredibly rare and are not usually identified, however EDS-HT (hypermobility type) is becoming more widely recognised as a potential contributor in this field.
Ophthalmological (eye) Injuries can present either individually or alongside other injuries, i.e Non Accidental Head Injury. Injuries may be to one eye or bilateral (both eyes). Of course there are medical conditions which may explain ophthalmological injuries and they will be considered by the medical professionals.
There are various types of ophthalmological injuries including pre-retinal haemorrhages, intra-retinal haemorrhages, sub conjunctival haemorrhages, vitreous haemorrhages, they are all bleeding to the eye just sometimes in different parts. There may be damage to the optic disks there may not. There may be detached retinas. There may be macular folds. If injuries to the eyes are identified then an expert Ophthalmologist is usually appointed to assist with the identification, causation, ageing, mechanism and timing. It is known that sometimes retinal haemorrhages can be caused as part of the birth process.
There are a few reasons why bite marks can cause medical professionals and children’s services to suspect a parent of child abuse. Firstly, outside of main caregivers, it is very difficult for an adult to get close enough to inflict a bite on a child. Secondly, bites inflicted on a child by an adult is usually done in uncontrolled rage. Thirdly, the old adage of , ‘if your child bites you, you must bite them back to teach them it hurts’ is still bandied about in some circles.
Every parent knows that most toddlers go through a biting stage. Children often bite each other in a nursery or school setting. Teachers usually know who the biting children are and also know when a child has fallen victim to this due to seeing the event or hearing a scream as bites usually hurt. It is common sense that a child who inflicts a bite on another child will leave a smaller bite imprint than that of an adult. Sometimes, siblings bite each other at home.
A parent may be accused of biting their child, when in fact; the injury could have been inflicted by a child at school or nursery, or by an older brother or sister.
If you find yourself being accused of causing an injury to your child, please contact one of our specialist team today.
Rebecca Ward has a national reputation as a solicitor acting in non-accidental injury cases for parents. We have worked together over the years. She has always impressed me with her ability to strike up a rapport with her clients and the opponents in cases. She is regularly seen in cases as the person who gets things done. Her attention to detail is phenomenal. In my experience Rebecca’s clients can rely on her to give them realistic advice at the outset of their cases and she will ensure that the client’s interests are robustly presented throughout. Rebecca’s immense skill in her chosen sphere ensures that she makes a real difference for her clients.
As a barrister representing parents in cases in which non-accidental injury is alleged I breathe a sigh of relief when I am instructed by Rebecca Ward and the team at Brendan Fleming. I know that the client will have received sympathetic and sensible advice about their case. I know that when a statement is taken in the case it will be comprehensive and helpful to the court. I know that the right experts will have been identified to assist in the case and I know that because Rebecca and her team specialise in these types of cases, the experts they approach will be known to them as helpful and objective witnesses. I’ve experience of Rebecca with her clients in conference with me I so I know, first hand, that the clients get straightforward and sensible advice.
Rebecca Ward’s attention to detail and ability to build a close working relationship with the client and the barristers she instructs makes her an obvious "go to" solicitor for complex Non-Accidental Injury and Fabricated or Induced Illness cases. She works exceptionally hard for her clients, has a forensic approach, and always goes the extra mile in case preparation. The breadth of Rebecca’s specialist knowledge in these cases makes her really stand out.
Rebecca Ward from Brendan Fleming supported me all the way through from the first meeting and to the very end of the care proceedings. She went far and beyond. At the beginning I lost all hope of being reunited with my girls in my care again, but all that changed. It was a very long process but Rebecca and my Barrister Dorian Day supported and explained every part of the proceedings to me and gave the best advice I could of wished for. I was going through a difficult time and they shown me that the light is still at the end of the tunnel and after a long 2 and half years my girls were finally put back into mine and my husband's care. Where they belong. We as a family would like to thank you Rebecca for everything and for getting us back together as a family again. I don't think I could of got through it all with out the support you gave me. Thank you again. I would highly recommend Brendan Fleming to all those who felt exactly how I felt at the very beginning where you feel like there is no hope. But there is always hope, especially when you have the right legal team behind you
“Thank God we have solicitors who will work for us! I felt really happy with the appointment and felt really reassured by Rebecca and Brendan. I couldn’t sleep the night before, but felt much more at ease after the appointment. Both were really helpful and, by the service so far, I would thoroughly recommend Brendan Fleming Solicitors to others”
Amazing. Rebecca was and is amazing. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how great she is and how hard she has worked for us. ………. I’m sorry for getting emotional but Rebecca has treated us as though we were her friend, she has always been there for us. It isn’t just a job to her, this was all just as important to Rebecca as it is to us. I would highly recommend Rebecca to anyone.”
Rebecca is fantastic and very good to work with. I would recommend Rebecca to anybody who needed help. If Rebecca was unavailable she would either get back to me as soon as possible or if she was in Court she would get another member of staff to speak to me. Rebecca is very honest and she would not tell me something that would not happen. She was straight down the line and any information or documents needed she would send these out promptly.
Rebecca was exceptionally amazing. I could ask her any question 24/7 and she would get back to me. She was very straight forward down the line and made sure that I understood everything that was being said to me and would go through things how many times was needed. Rebecca was very friendly and supportive and if it was not for her I do not think that I would have got through the case. I suffer from panic attacks and Rebecca would calm me down and make sure that I was all right. Rebecca was very approachable and always supportive even at weekends. I would definitely recommend Rebecca to any of my friends or family if they were ever in the situation I was in. I would have given up if it was not for the support of Rebecca and the encouragement to continue.
Through Rebecca and Gemma and the rest of the team at Brendan Fleming our children were removed from the Child Protection Register and an apology was given from the Local Authority of how they handled our case. We are so happy that this is finally over and we can move forward with our lives with our family altogether. We are thankful for everything Rebecca and Gemma have done for us without the expertise and support I think there would have been a very different outcome and I really cannot thank Rebecca enough for helping them to get the children back at home where they belong. Thanks again Hannah.
I was very pleased with how quickly I was seen once making the call to Brendan Fleming Solicitors. I was seen straight away and Rebecca reassured me that she would fight my corner. She was very thorough and put across my case to the Courts. I emailed quite a lot with questions and ideas and Rebecca never failed to respond to me more or less straight away even at night and weekends. Rebecca was very caring and very approachable and I would recommend this firm to anybody who needed help.
Rebecca was amazing and she went out of her way to help her. Rebecca would contact me whether it was evenings or weekends and whether this was a small enquiry she always helped if she could. She would always ask how I was and how the children were and I felt that she could approach Rebecca and speak to Rebecca about anything. I felt that I was not just a client and that Rebecca was very friendly and showed all interest in aspects of her life not just on legal matters.
I was very happy with the outcome. Sometimes I found things very difficult and thought that the process was long but in the end I got the result that I wanted.
Rebecca is brilliant and is very professional and is an asset to the company. I have used other Solicitors in the past and you are far better than any other. I admire Rebecca and she put herself out when the Local Authority kept sending and delaying important documents she went to the offices and collected them herself. I would recommend Rebecca and the firm to anyone who needs help.