Trial of childminder accused of assaulting baby hears that infant was “bright and bubbly”

Sandra Higgins
Sandra Higgins

The trial of a childminder charged with causing serious harm to a baby in her care has heard the child was “bright and bubbly” on the day of the alleged assault.

Sandra Higgins (34) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, County Cavan has pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at Ms Higgins' home on March 28, 2012.

The child’s uncle, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, told the trial that he was living with his sister in the child’s family home in 2012. He said in February 2012 there were concerns about the childminding situation. 

He told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that in February she received a noticeable bump on her head at the childminders. He said she got a black eye about a month before the March 28 hospitalisation, a bump on her head about two weeks later, and a week later she got a mark down the back of her legs.

He said he saw all these injuries himself and they were there after her return from being minded.

On the morning of the incident he said the child was bright and bubbly as usual. He said that later that day his sister rang him to say the child had become very sick and was in hospital. She said his sister sounded very flustered.

The day after the baby was hospitalised he was at home when Ms Higgins called. He spoke to her at the front door and she wanted to know how the child was.

“She was very insistent on what exactly was wrong,. She was asking specific questions about the doctor's examinations and that. Information I wouldn’t have and wouldn’t have given to her even if I had. I basically said I didn’t know and I thought she was improving.” he said.

He agreed with Remy Farrell SC, defending, that he gave her a “cool reception". He said the following day his sister asked him to pick up the childminding diary from Ms Higgins. His brother-in-law drove him to the house and he met Ms Higgins and asked her for the baby bag and the diary.

He said she gave him the baby bag and a bag of clothes and a car seat. She said the notebook was in the baby bag and he emptied the bag onto the floor just inside the door.

He said there was no notebook. He said the accused was then trying to get him out the door and told him it must be in the clothes bag.

He denied a suggestion from defence counsel that emptying the bag was “somewhat aggressive”. He said he left and went home and searched in vain for the diary before going back to Ms Higgins and telling her the diary couldn’t be found. She said she didn’t know where else it would be.

He said he travelled back to the hospital and in the meantime Ms Higgins had sent his sister a text to say she had found the diary and had dropped it into the family home. 

In other evidence two members of staff from Cavan Childcare Committee said that they met the accused on the morning of March 28 and she had two children in a double buggy. One of these was the infant in question. Both witnesses said the infant seemed fine.

Social Worker Kay McLoughlin told the trial that she received a notification from the hospital over a concern that the injuries to the baby might be non-accidental. She went to the hospital on March 29 and met the parents.

She said they co-operated with her. "They were very anxious that the gardaí become involved,” she told the court.

The following day she met with the accused and interviewed her. Ms Higgins stated that the baby “seemed fine” when dropped off by her mother that morning. Ms McLoughlin met the accused again on April 4 and made inquires about her training and first aid training.

The trial is set to run for six days before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of eight men and four women. There is a court order prohibiting publication of the child's name.