Being accused of hurting your baby is, without a doubt, any parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, parents and carers from every walk of life can find themselves in this devastating predicament.
Here Edward Hayes LLP, provides essential advice on what to do when you have been falsely accused of hurting your baby:
1. Stay calm and focus on your child
Emotions will understandably be running very high. Everything you say and do will be noted by any professionals present and referred to at a later date in any care proceedings as well as possible criminal proceedings but you must stay calm. Remain focused on your child, continue asking the professionals for information on their condition and expressing how worried you are for their well-being.
2. Contact a solicitor who specialises in non-accidental injury cases at the earliest opportunity
You should obtain advice from a specialist family law firm as soon as any suspicion is raised. A general practitioner may not have the experience to advise you appropriately, or they may not be able to deal with both the family and criminal aspects of your case.
3. Be open and honest with your solicitor
Your solicitor will want to help you and will strive to reunite you with your baby as soon as possible. The best way of achieving that aim is to give your solicitor as much accurate information as quickly as possible. It is much better to present any possible and plausible explanations at the earliest opportunity. Ask your solicitor if you are worried or unsure about anything.
4. Write down everything
Write down everything you remember leading up to your baby presenting as unwell, including any relevant incidents. These notes are for your own use and for you to provide to your solicitor – you should not show them or give them to anyone else. What you write down should be what you personally remember – if someone else gives you information in respect to your child or their condition, or gives suggestions for what may have caused their condition, write down clearly that ‘x said y’ otherwise in time you can confuse what you remember happening with what someone else told you.
5. Do not agree to any discussions or interviews before you obtain legal advice
If you are arrested and facing a police interview, or if you are asked to accompany the police to the station for a ‘voluntary’ interview, you must insist on telephoning a specialist criminal lawyer. A general duty lawyer may not have any experience in dealing with cases involving an alleged non-accidental injury. The police may say that the quicker you answer questions the quicker you can get back to your baby; in actuality lawyers rarely cause delay and ensure your rights are protected.
6. Police Protection Order
The police can obtain a police protection order which lasts for 72 hours, during which time the social worker may ask the court for an order or your agreement to foster care. The Police should not do this if there is a social worker involved. Social services may ask you to agree for your baby to go into foster care with your voluntary consent. We advise that you do not consent until you have obtained specialist legal advice – you don’t have to agree to this and you don’t need to make an immediate decision. You could contact family/friends to temporarily look after your baby instead.
7. Gather information/evidence
Keep evidence in a safe place and let your solicitor know you have it – make sure that when you give this to your solicitor you retain a complete copy to avoid any accidental destruction/misplacing of evidence. Evidence should include:
- Your diary/calendar, which may remind you what you have been doing and who your baby has been with over the preceding days/weeks
- Your text messages/social media/phone call history may also assist in prompting your memory
- Your baby’s Red Book will have information in respect of inoculations/professional visits/weight/length/head circumference
- Photographs of your baby, which may be on your phone, camera and/or on someone else’s phone/camera.
8. Be patient and prepare for a long and difficult journey
If court proceedings are issued the court will need as much information and evidence as possible and this takes time. The likely evidence required will, at a minimum, include copies of GP and hospital records, police evidence, witness statements, independent expert reports. Although there is a government time limit stating that care proceedings should be concluded within 26 weeks, in a case where there is an alleged non-accidental injury this is likely to be optimistic. An experienced solicitor will assist in knowing what evidence is required and getting the necessary court directions to obtain this as quickly as possible.
Edward Hayes LLP have expert lawyers who regularly represent accused parents in both family and criminal courts. We cover cases all across the country from Truro up to Newcastle. We are available 24 hours a day on 01243 781431 (during office hours) and our out of hour emergency number is 0800 085 9684. Contact the Family Law Team for specialist advice regarding family proceedings or Maria Monan for specialist advice regarding police station and criminal court proceedings.