Harriet Williams successfully represents a mother in public law proceedings

Harriet Williams successfully represents a mother in public law proceedings

24 January 2022

In ‘single issue’ public law proceedings relating to an unexplained humerus fracture in a 2-week-old baby, Harriet Williams successfully represented a Mother, such that proceedings were concluded on day three of the five-day hearing with no findings being made against either parent.

The case involved the evidence of four expert witnesses in the fields of neonatology, radiology, paediatrics and genetics. The parents denied that the injury was non-accidental and questioned whether it had been caused during a difficult birth or because of a predisposition to fracturing caused by Osteogenesis Imperfecta (“OI”).

The Geneticist’s written report concluded that there was no evidence that the child was suffering from OI. However, under cross-examination on behalf of the Mother and Father, the views of both the Geneticist and Paediatrician changed, and they concluded that a diagnosis of OI could not be excluded without genetic testing.

The Local Authority subsequently submitted that there was a gap in the evidence and applied for an adjournment to allow genetic testing to take place. The application was opposed on behalf of both parents, submitting that, following Oxfordshire County Council v DP, RS and BS, it would be disproportionate to extend proceedings further and to incur additional cost and inevitable delay in circumstances where the result of such testing would have little impact on the Local Authority’s care plan.

The Local Authority’s application to adjourn was refused, the Court agreeing that continued pursuit of the finding of fact exercise would be disproportionate to the final care plan and would have a significant impact on the parents and wider family who had engaged with the Local Authority for over 12 months in adhering to the current safety plan. Proceedings concluded on day three of the hearing with no findings being made.

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