Trial hears baby suffered brain injury from being shaken

Cavan childminder Sandra Higgins charged with intentionally causing harm to child

A registered child-minder has gone on trial charged with causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby.

On the first day of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court the infant's mother testified that her daughter was fine on the morning of March 28th, 2012 when she dropped her to the home of Sandra Higgins (34).

Ms Higgins of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, Co Cavan has pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home on March 28th, 2012. At about 4.30pm that day Ms Higgins had brought the infant to the emergency department at Cavan General hospital.

Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, told the jury they would hear evidence the child was suffering active seizures and had extensive bruising around the face and both sides of the head.


Opening the State’s case, Mr Gillane said a medical expert will say retinal haemorrhaging suffered by the infant was consistent with violent shaking injury which was not accidental.

The child’s mother told the court she went to the hospital after receiving a call from Ms Higgins from the hospital and told her the infant had had some kind of a fit or seizure. “She said [the child] was fine all day. She had a sleep. She had her tea. She just sat down on the floor to play and vomited and had a seizure,” the witness said.

She said when she got to the hospital her child was unconscious. “I was very upset. I couldn’t believe it. [She] had been fine that morning.”

She noticed the infant had a swelling between her eyebrows and asked the accused about this. Ms Higgins told her the infant had been fine all day and said she had not fallen or bumped her head. She told the mother that the bump between her eyebrows was from a different day, the court heard.

The witness said she was sure the bump was not there that morning. She said that over the next days the child was subject to a number of examinations and a doctor told her that the baby had two rib fractures that were three to four weeks old. There was also medical opinion that some of the injuries were the result of violent shaking.

The court heard that in early 2012 there were incidents of the child having bumps and bruises. Her parents were concerned that Ms Higgins “wasn’t keeping a close enough eye” on the infant and began looking for an alternative childminder.

After an investigation was launched the mother told gardaí she was concerned some of the entries in a child-minding diary kept by Ms Higgins had been changed or added. She told the court that an entry about the child bumping her head on March 22nd was not there before.

References to spitting up phlegm on March 5th, to falling over on toys on March 6th and throwing up when fed on March 26th, were not in the diary before March 28th, the mother testified.

She agreed with Remy Farrell SC, defending, that she didn’t read all the entries in the diary every day and that she had not noticed other entries about bumps.

She also agreed that it was Ms Higgins who suggested on March 5th the child be brought to the doctor or get a check-up because she had a temperature. The trial is set to run for six days before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of eight men and four women.