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What happens if I have been accused of shaking my baby?

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Shaken Baby Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma refers to the diagnosis given to a baby or infant where it is believed by medical professionals that their injuries are consistent with being violently shaken. Studies have found that babies who are between the ages of newborn to four months of age are at greatest risk of injury as a result of shaking.[1]

The shaking of a child can lead to serious injuries such as cranial injuries, spinal injuries and brain injuries which can lead to the death of the child or serious long term complications for the child. The parent or carer may recognise that their child is drowsy, not feeding, having difficulty breathing, has sensitivity to certain areas of the body or is having fits or seizures amongst other initial symptoms. Injuries might not always be visible and the child may not always present with symptoms directly after the incident when they were shaken. The long term consequences of a child being shaken can impact upon the child’s development due to neurological damage which could lead to physical disability, vision loss, behavioural difficulties and cognitive issues. [2]

If an infant is taken to the hospital due to concern about their presentation, they will undergo a variety of medical assessments and may have to undergo a full body scan and blood tests to ascertain their general health and to establish whether they have any fractures or internal bleeding. A diagnosis of Abusive Head Trauma is usually made where there is a finding of an unexplained injury to the brain, skull or spinal cord of the infant which is not explained by any medical explanation. In some cases, there may have been a number of “shaking incidents” before medical professionals can establish the results of earlier internal injuries which are healing at the time they are presented at the hospital in addition to  new injuries. If the parents or carers are unable to offer a reasonable explanation, which is accepted by the medical professionals, the Local Authority are likely to become involved and the injury to the child will be classed as non-accidental.

The BBC published a news article on the 7th October 2019 titled “Shaken baby syndrome cases ‘tip of the iceberg’”. The article stated that more than 220 babies were killed or seriously injured as a result of being shaken but it is believed that this number is a lot higher due to the government not keeping official figures on this type of injury or any subsequent fatalities.[3]

Research has shown that in some cases where a baby has been shaken, this has been as a result of the parent or carer lashing out in frustration as they cannot console the child and cannot cope with their crying. The incident and subsequent injuries typically appear after the child is being cared for by a lone parent. A programme called ICON[4] has been developed to assist parents with coping with their child’s crying and realising that it is normal with crying increasing between 2 weeks of age and 4 months.

ICON stands for:

I  - infant crying is normal

C - comforting methods can help

O - it’s okay to walk away

N - never ever shake a baby

If the Local Authority become involved with your family  due to safeguarding concerns around your care of your child, it is advised that you are honest  with professionals if you have previously shaken your baby or have concerns that you may do this in the future, if they continue to cry. Dependent upon the severity of the incidents and the consequences, the Local Authority and other professionals such as the health visitor may be able to put measures in place such as a safety plan to support you and may complete direct work with you regarding the risks and coping strategies.

If you have been accused of injuring your child or have Local Authority involvement with your children at Child Protection level ranging through to Care Proceedings in the Family Court then Emery Johnson Astills can assist you. We have experience in assisting parents at all stages of Local Authority involvement and we have in-depth knowledge of non-accidental injuries to children and can advise you in relation to this. Please contact Emery Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please visit either of the above offices or email us on careteam@johnsonastills.com and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.

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