Third retrial of child-minder accused of harming baby collapses

Judge says issue arose during legal argument in absence of the jury

The third retrial of a Cavan child-minder accused of causing serious harm to a baby has collapsed at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Sandra Higgins (37) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan, had pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to a baby girl at the accused's home on March 28th, 2012.

It is the State’s case that the baby’s injuries, which included bruising and swelling on her head and face, bleeding on the brain and detached retinas in both eyes, were inflicted by Ms Higgins.

On Thursday Judge Pauline Codd explained that an issue arose during legal argument in the absence of the jury.


She explained that through “no wilful action” by gardaí­ or anybody else, email communications between expert witnesses in the case were not passed on to the defence.

The judge said as a result she was satisfied there was a reasonable doubt the accused could not get a fair trial.

She said generally there is no difficulty with expert witnesses contacting each other, so long as the defence knows about it. The judge said fair trial procedure means the defence is entitled to have all information beforehand.

She told the jury that in this case, the defence team was “potentially hamstrung” and impeded in properly preparing their cross-examination.

She said it is up to the Director of Public Prosecutions to see whether to bring the case to trial again, but if so it will be before another jury.

Judge Codd thanked jury members before discharging them from their civic duty. She remanded Ms Higgins on continuing bail for a mention date in another court in July.