By Declan Brennan
A medical expert has told the trial of two parents accused of child cruelty that their daughter’s injuries were consistent with child abuse and non-accidental injury.
The 39-year-old man and his 36-year-old wife have pleaded not guilty to two charges of assault causing serious harm to then nine year old child and three charges of child cruelty at the family home in Dublin on dates between June 28 and July 2, 2019.
The jury have heard evidence that a brain injury has left the child needing 24 hour care for the rest of her life. A garda investigation began shortly after the child presented at Temple St. children’s hospital unconscious and with extensive bruising all over her body.
The parents, who are originally from north Africa, cannot be named to protect the identity of the child.
On day eight of their trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Dr Louise Kyne, a consultant paediatrician at Temple St. hospital, told Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, that she spoke to the child’s parents as part of a review of the child’s situation.
She said the parents told her that the child had been physically punished while at school in her native country.
She said the father told her that people in Ireland have told them the child “was a crazy child” and that people would stop him and ask “if she is normal”.
He said if his daughter would hit herself against a chair or a wall, but would not lose consciousness, Dr Kyne testified. He said his daughter had tried to hurt herself in the past and often fell, but felt no pain when she did, she said.
Dr Kyne said her conclusion was that the medical history provided by the parents did not explain the injuries on the child. She told the jury that the injuries were consistent with child abuse and non-accidental injury.
Professor Jack Crane told Ms Rowland that he examined a large number of photographs of the child’s injuries and concluded the injuries were “indicative of sustained abuse, possibly over several days”.
He said he identified burn marks to the girl’s shoulder, arms, both sides of her feet and the palms of her hands. He said that some of these were likely caused by contact with an “extremely hot surface or naked flame”.
He said that an extensive area of bruising around the child’s genital area was likely caused by the application of considerable blunt force, such as punching, kicking or the use of an implement.
He said there were marks which could be bite marks on her upper arm towards her shoulder and an extensive area of purple bruising on the child’s lower thighs.
He said that while it is difficult to date bruises, the majority of bruises on the child were purple, suggesting they were around a few days old. He said the multiple and complex injuries found on the child were caused principally by blunt force trauma.
“She had been beaten, possibly with a weapon or implement,” he said, noting that the use of a hand or fist wouldn’t explain some of the bruises.
Prof Crane said that bruising around the face were indicative of blows to the face such as caused by punching. He said the child suffered swelling of the brain and subdural haematoma, or bleeding between the skull and the brain surface. He said the child also had bleeding in both eyes.
He said that the injuries to the head were the cause of the child loosing consciousness and ultimately suffering permanent neurological damage.
He said he looked at a family photograph of the child at the beach taken a few weeks before her hospitalisation. He said there didn’t appear to be any injuries on her body, head or limbs and she appeared “alert and fully conscious”.
The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.