Parents found innocent of child abuse after their baby was removed and adopted

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Two parents whose child was taken into foster care and subsequently adopted have been exonerated today at Guildford Crown Court of causing any injury to their 6-week old baby, three years after the baby was taken from them and adopted.

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The mother, Karrissa Cox, was represented at court by her barristers, Michael Turner QC and Emma Fenn of Garden Court Chambers. The prosecution offered no evidence on 7th October 2015. Not guilty verdicts were entered.

The case received extensive national press coverage, including in the Guardian and Independent.

Today, the parents Karrissa Cox and Richard Carter said:

“We took our child to the hospital seeking help and they stole our baby from us”.

Michael Turner QC of Garden Court Chambers 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”.

On 24th April 2012 Karrissa Cox and Richard Carter took their 6-week old baby to the A&E department at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. They were concerned as the baby had bleeding in the mouth following a feed so they rushed their baby to hospital.

It was discovered that their baby had a torn frenulum, but no other associated bruising or swelling in or around the mouth. In addition the baby had a number of minor bruises on the body. On skeletal x-ray it was said the baby had a number of healing metaphyseal fractures. Subsequently, the baby was found to have Von Willebrands II, a blood disorder which causes someone to bruise more easily.

The baby was taken into care and then adopted. For two years the parents were allowed supervised contact with the child and were observed to be exemplar parents. Proceedings were commenced in the family courts where no real challenge to the science was made. A finding of abusive injury was inevitable. During the criminal proceedings, Michael Turner QC leading Emma Fenn, specialists in criminal non-accidental injury cases, instructed a number of experts to challenge the scientific evidence – the clue – a low vitamin D reading at seven weeks old.

The defence experts emphatically rejected fractures and child abuse. They reported vitamin D deficiency and healing infantile rickets. Professor Stephen Nussey, a consultant endocrinologist, recommended that the Guthrie card (a blood spot sample taken at 5 days) be tested for vitamin D. The prosecution had never tested this. The prosecution response: it’s too old, it won’t have been kept and it won’t be reliable. These enquiries are speculative . The defence knew that this child had been fed on formula milk enriched with vitamin D from birth which was likely to have increased the vitamin D reading. The defence pursued the Guthrie card. When it was eventually produced and tested, the reading came back: the baby was severely vitamin D deficient at 5 days old. The prosecution attacked the sample as unreliable.

The prosecution relied on the radiological report of Dr Fairhurst. She included no assessment of the differential diagnosis of rickets in any of her reports. She had been relied on in the family proceedings and was the principal evidence that the family court relied upon in concluding there had been child abuse. She concluded there were fractures. She dismissed time and again the defence’s suggestion that this baby had not been abused. The defence experts were accused of making conclusions without scientific basis, speculating and acting for commercial gain. Time and again, the defence experts’ conclusions were shown to be correct. The prosecution instructed a further radiologist. That expert’s opinion, given on 6th October 2015, three and a half years later, concluded that he was doubtful there were any fractures at all.

The prosecution offered no evidence on 7th October 2015. Not guilty verdicts were entered.

How many other families have had their children removed from them wrongly and been imprisoned on the basis of flawed science? Dr Fairhurst alone has assessed over 1000 cases of alleged child abuse.

Emma Fenn of Garden Court Chambers said:

 “The Government needs to act fast. Vitamin D supplements were recommended to be given to every pregnant and lactating mother in 1991. A Coroner’s Rule 43 report has made the same recommendation”.

 “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. Disgracefully, the parents could not obtain legal aid for the adoption proceedings after the savage legal aid cuts brought in three years ago”.

How many other deaths and miscarriages of justice must take place before action is taken; and what of the savage legal aid cuts, rushed adoptions and restrictions on expert funding in the family courts leading to such skewed evidence being the only evidence presented to the family courts.

It remains to be seen whether any of the damage done to these parents and their child can be undone.

Notes to Editors

Michael Turner QC and Emma Fenn are members of Garden Court Chambers’ Crime Team.

They were instructed by James Foster of Davies Blunden & Evans, a solicitor who in these economically trying times worked tirelessly to fiercely protect the interests of his innocent client.

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