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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Mother admits ill treating baby
A woman who fractured an arm, a leg and ribs of her month-old baby girl has walked free from court.

The mother, who was suffering from post-natal depression, had an 18-month prison sentence suspended for three years at Antrim Crown Court.

The judge told the 23-year-old, who cannot be named, he was taking the "exceptional" action due to her "vulnerable position" and diagnosis.

She admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm and ill treatment of the child.

The court heard that the girl was just one month old in April last year when doctors found her swollen right arm and left leg were both fractured.

A prosecuting lawyer said further fractures to three of the child's ribs were uncovered following subsequent hospital visits.

He said the baby was born on 19 March last year and that initially, everything appeared fine during visits by a local health visitor.

However, by 19 April, the health visitor began to voice concerns about the lack of weight gain and a week later, noticed two small bruise-like spots on her face.

'Squeezed'

The prosecution lawyer said the health visitor also noticed "tension" between the woman and her partner, adding that the mother herself "appeared anxious".

He added that when asked about the marks, her partner indicated that he had noticed them too, but that they must have been inflicted by the baby on herself.

He said the child was taken to the local GP who was concerned and referred the case to the Royal Victoria Hospital where the initial fractures to the baby's arm and leg were uncovered after x-ray.

He added that, when questioned, the woman said that the injuries could have been caused by her lifting the baby out of her cot, once by the leg and once by the arm.

She also admitted and demonstrated that "on occasions" she would hold the child very tight to her, squeezing her.

"There was a difficulty with the child crying in the cot and in a real loss of control; she was picked up very roughly by the arm and subsequently by the leg, and then in frustration she was squeezed into the mother," he said.

A defence lawyer described the defendant as "a young lady who presents as a very fragile and emotional individual".

He added there had been a history of post-natal depression and that the mother had also been assessed as having learning difficulties, which "could have affected her thinking".

He also revealed that the child had been taken into care.

Judge David Smyth said he did not "want to punish vulnerable mothers, but one has to protect vulnerable children".

"You caused these injuries but you did not take her to get adequate treatment either, resulting in her ill treatment," he said.




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