Few convictions for infant head injuries
17 September 2009
Convictions are secured in less than half the cases of injants with non-accidental head injuries, according to PhD candidate Amanda Stephens.
Her study examined non-accidental head injuries seen by the child protection unit at the Children's Hospital at Westmead and it concluded thatparents and step-parents who inflict head injuries on their infants are virtually never convicted of the crime, unless they plead guilty.
Of 68 cases of infants with non-accidental head injuries, convictions were secured in only 23 of them - and in all but one case the suspected perpetrator had confessed.
In one case where a child died, no charges were laid.
''When you look at a child who has a brain injury that some adult has inflicted, you wonder how it makes sense that no one will be held responsible,'' she said.
''Prevention is the key.
''Once these children have head injuries it's too late.
"We have to have criminal sanctions but I'm not convinced locking people up will protect children.
"Even a charge of manslaughter gets only seven years and mostly perpetrators are in their early 20s,'' she said.
Her PhD thesis is entitled, The legal outcome in non-accidental head injury in children and one of her supervisors is Professor Patrick Parkinson AM.
Contact: Greg Sherington
Phone: +61 2 9351 0202