Judge rejects ‘shaken-baby’ diagnosis

A provincial court judge has ruled that shaking was not the cause of a baby girl’s brain injuries, which led to B.C. child authorities seizing the infant and her two older brothers more than three years ago.

A provincial court judge has ruled that shaking was not the cause of a baby girl’s brain injuries, which led to B.C. child authorities seizing the infant and her two older brothers more than three years ago.

However, Judge Thomas Crabtree found the “unexplained injuries” while in her parents care justified the B.C. Childrens’ Ministry concern for the safety of all three children.

The father had also been suspected earlier when an arm fracture in one of the older children was reported to the ministry. But that investigation ended when the injury was diagnosed a result of the child’s premature birth.

Crabtree ruled the family is the “preferred environment” for children, and he gave the former Hope couple six months to satisfy the ministry’s safety concerns.

“Children are entitled to be protected from abuse and neglect, and this must be the overriding concern of the court,” the judge said, in his March 2 reasons for judgment.

“The opportunity is now in the hands of the parents,” he said. “The children are in need of protection.”

Parents Paul and Zabeth Bayne believe they may have only three more months to wait before all four of their children seized by the ministry are returned them.

A baby born last month was seized by the ministry shortly after birth.

“Three months isn’t such a long time to wait,” Zabeth Bayne said last week, especially given the three-year fight for custody the couple has been waging in court.

“We want to know the (ministry’s) concerns, and how they think we can address those concerns,” she said. “The question is, is the ministry going to work with us?”

Judge Crabtree found the relationship between the Baynes and the ministry “deteriorated” after the couple talked to the media about their situation, while the two older children were in the care of grandparents.

But he also found some reason for the Baynes mistrust given the “failure of the ministry to live up to the spirit” of an earlier mediation agreement.

The Baynes contended the baby’s injuries occurred when an older brother, a toddler at the time, fell on top of her and they bumped heads in August, 2007.

Zabeth took the child to hospital when she noticed a change in the baby’s feeding, and doctors there suspected it was a case of “shaken-baby” syndrome and notified the ministry.

At trial, there was conflicting medical evidence about the cause of the injuries, but Crabtree noted the court’s job is not to assign blame but to ensure the children are protected, and return them to the family, if possible.

He did not accept the “shaken-baby” diagnosis, but ruled the injuries were “unexplained” so there was some question about parental care.

But he noted that the Baynes had “put their lives and careers on hold” to maintain as much contact as possible with their children while they lived in the foster homes.

Zabeth said the couple has been taking first aid courses and parental counselling to do “all we can to make ourselves better parents,” and she looked forward to learning the ministry’s concerns.

The ministry has not commented publicly on the case since it went to court, but has told other media that its goal is to return the children to the parents when it is safe to do so.

rfreeman@theprogress.com