WHEN a six-month-old baby was taken to hospital with breathing difficulties horrified medical staff discovered he had suffered an appalling catalogue of injuries in his young life.
A jury has heard the little boy was found to have more than a dozen fractures to his ribs, severe fractures to bones in his legs and arms, damage to his spine and other injuries.
But the jury at Warwick Crown Court was warned to put any emotional reactions to one side when considering the case against the baby’s mother and her boyfriend at the time.
The 27-year-old mother and her then-partner, aged 22, are both from Coventry but cannot be named to protect the identity of their alleged victim.
They have pleaded not guilty to charges of cruelty to a child by assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting or exposing him to unnecessary suffering between February and May last year and failing to get treatment for him.
They also deny causing or allowing the baby to suffer serious physical harm by failing to take steps to protect him.
Prosecutor Antonie Muller told the jury: “We are going to hear a case about very serious injuries indeed to a very young child that would, in anybody, arouse emotions. But you must disregard that and consider the case only on the evidence.”
“His mum is here, but (the male defendant) is not his dad. Early last year he came to be in a relationship with her and became a frequent visitor to her home in Coventry.
“The Crown’s case is that in that context she and he had responsibility for that very little child.”
Mr Muller said that in May last year the baby, who was just two days short of being six months old, was referred to University Hospital in Coventry with suspected bronchiolitis, and the following day medics also noticed bruising.
Two days later ‘full skeletal radiographic imagery’ revealed healing fractures to the ends of 11 of his right ribs which were assessed to have been two to four weeks old.
“This baby also had healing fractures to the arc of ribs 10 to 12. They resulted in what doctors refer to as ‘flail chest,’ when you have rib fractures in two sites.
“The pressure which draws air into our lungs also sucks in that section of ribs, and the consequence is it significantly impairs the ability to breathe properly,” explained Mr Muller.
“Sadly that was not the end of the injuries. There was a healing fracture to another right rib and to the 5th and 6th left ribs which were older than the fracture to the right, about three months old.”
He also had injuries to his arms including a healing spiral fracture, 2-3 weeks old, to his left upper arm and healing fractures of a similar age to both bones in his lower left arm.
“Doctors believe those two injuries are extremely unlikely to have resulted from a single application of force.”
The baby’s right upper arm also showed signs of a fracture which was ‘not more than six weeks old.’
His catalogue of non-accidental injuries continued with a healed fracture to his right thighbone which the doctors believed was at least six weeks old as a result of direct pressure on it or ‘bending of the knee beyond straight.’
There was a healed fracture of the left shinbone, five weeks to three months old, and a healed fracture to a big toe.
Finally, he was found to have ‘wedging’ of one of his lower vertebrae, likely to have resulted from compression of the spine or extreme bending.
And Mr Muller observed: “Regarding those injuries, there is no evidence of an underlying medical condition that would predispose him to fracturing.
“None of the fractures are recognised accidental injuries in babies of that age. In fact, all have a significant association with non-accidental injuries of babies of that age.
“It is the Crown’s case that the multiplicity of injuries implies at the very least a failure to protect that child and a failure to seek treatment.
“These are severe fractures which would have required a significant degree of force; and they are non-accidental, caused by an adult or adults on more than one occasion.”
The boyfriend and the mother were both arrested, and Mr Muller said: “He was told he did not have to say anything – and he didn’t. She too was told she did not have to say anything – and she too didn’t.”
But Mr Muller told the jury: “Sadly that was not the end of what was found.”
He explained that when he was further examined a few days later, a paediatrician found evidence of intimate injuries.
Mr Muller added: “The Crown cannot say whether it is his mother who caused none, some or all of the injuries. She says ‘I haven’t got a clue what has gone on.’
“The Crown can’t say if it is [the male defendant] who caused none, some or all of the injuries, because he said ‘I don’t know what happened.’
“But we do allege it was either one of them or both of them, and that it was no-one else. We also say they both neglected him and caused him suffering by failing to get him prompt medical treatment.” The trial continues.