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Jury in child minder trial fail to reach a verdict

CourtsBy Sunday World
Sandra Higgins
Sandra Higgins

A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a child-minder accused of causing serious harm to a ten-month-old baby.

Update: 13.39:

Registered child-minder Sandra Higgins (34) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, Co Cavan had pleaded not  guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby girl on March 28, 2012.

The trial heard that the child was fine that morning and during the day. Around 5pm Ms Higgins brought her to Cavan General Hospital where she presented with a brain bleed, detached retina and fractured ribs. She continued to have seizures for five days.

The prosecution alleged that the baby's symptoms were consistent with a violent shaking. Doctors who treated the baby girl said it was highly likely that the injuries to the child happened while she was in the care of Ms Higgins and that the injuries were non-accidental.

Expert witnesses for the defence said the evidence was more suggestive of a head trauma and could have been the re-activation of an old injury. Ms Higgins told gardaí that she cared for the baby like her own children and that she never assaulted her.

This afternoon the jury of eight men and four women told the judge they were unable to reach either a unanimous or majority verdict.

The jury foreman handed in a note to the Judge Patricia Ryan stating: “We cannot reach a unanimous or majority verdict and do not believe we will do so with any more time”. It was day eight of the trial and the jury had deliberated for just under six hours.

Judge Ryan thanked the jury for their service before discharging them. She remanded Ms Higgins on continuing bail and listed the case for mention again before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court next Thursday (July 2).

Before being discharged the jury had asked a number of question. They asked to hear evidence of the vital signs as given by the consultant paediatrician who treated the child and from a UK neuropathologist called by the defence.

They also also the court to give another definition of the term “reckless”. Judge Ryan told the jury: “A person is reckless when they perceive the risk of that harm and ignore same by culpably proceeding with the action. So they fly in the face of reality”.


The jury of eight men and four women had deliberated for almost five hours by eleven o'clock this morning. They had been instructed to return a unanimous verdict.

Judge Patricia Ryan asked the jury to resume it's deliberations and to try to come to a unanimous verdict but she advised it that the court could now accept a majority verdict.

A majority verdict is one on which at least ten or more of them agree.

The jury have asked a number of question. They have asked to hear evidence of the vital signs as given by the consultant paediatrician who treated the child and from a UK neuropathologist called by the defence.
 
The foreman also asked the court to give another definition of the term “reckless”.
 
Judge Ryan told the jury: “A person is reckless when they perceive the risk of that harm and ignore same by culpably proceeding with the action. So they fly in the face of reality”.

The trial has heard evidence that the child was fine on the morning and during the day of the alleged assault. Around 5pm Ms Higgins brought her to Cavan General Hospital where she presented with a brain bleed, detached retina and fractured ribs. She continued to have seizures for days.

The prosecution alleges the baby's symptoms were consistent with a violent shaking.

Doctors who treated the baby girl said it was highly likely that the injuries to the child happened while she was in the care of Ms Higgins and that the injuries were non-accidental.
 
Expert witnesses for the defence said the evidence was more suggestive of a head trauma and could have been the re-activation of an old injury.
 
The accused told gardai that she treated the baby as one of her own children and never assaulted her.

Judge Ryan has previously told the jury that it's verdict should not be based on sympathy for the child or her parents or for the accused. She said they must use their common sense when looking at the evidence in the case.