A mother and father who claimed that serious injuries suffered by their baby daughter were caused by the strap of her bouncy chair have been permitted supervised contact with her by the Court of Appeal.
Neither of the ‘dysfunctional’ parents have shown remorse or accepted responsibility for the injuries sustained by the girl which were suggestive of sexual abuse and which a family judge described as ‘almost without parallel’.
However, the Court of Appeal decided that, pending a full fact-finding hearing - at which a judge will rule on the cause of the injuries and the identity of the perpetrator - the parents should have contact with the girl and her three siblings, the youngest of whom was two days old when removed from the family home.
The injured girl was 11 months old when taken to hospital by her mother. She and her siblings were swiftly removed from their parents after examination by a paediatrician revealed the nature and extent of her injuries.
A family judge subsequently granted the local authority permission to sever contact between the couple and their children after ruling that one or both of the parents must have caused the girl's injuries.
The father had a history of serious domestic violence against the mother and the judge said that there was no prospect of any of the children being allowed to return to the care of either parent in the short term.
Lawyers for the parents argued on appeal that there was an absence of the ‘extraordinarily compelling reasons’ required for the severance of contact between the parents and their children prior to the fact-finding hearing.
Lord Justice McFarlane said that the girl's ‘appalling’ injuries were ‘gross and extremely worrying’ and that the family judge had understandably wanted to ‘shield and protect’ the children from the danger of being ‘re-traumatised’ by further contact with their parents.
However, allowing the parents' appeal, the judge, sitting with Lords Justice Richards and Sullivan, said that it was too early to reach any firm view on the cause of the girl's injuries and, by cutting all contact between parents and children, the family judge had been ‘in danger of acting prematurely’.
Opening the way for the parents to have supervised contact with their children, he said that the family judge had ‘fallen into the trap’ of pre-determining issues without hearing full evidence.