Child protection and medical services have defended their
roles in a baby being taken from her parents.
They were commenting after a High Court decision found her
injuries were unlikely to have been caused by the parents.
High Court Judge Graham Panckhurst has overturned care and
protection orders made against the parents after they took
their 8-month-old daughter to Dunedin Hospital in July 10,
2011, where it was found she had numerous fractures of the
ribs, limbs and skull.
On July 15, the Ministry for Social Development applied,
without notice to the parents, for an interim custody order,
which was granted.
Then, on July 22, a diagnosis of rickets was confirmed.
In a Family Court hearing in November 2011,before Judge
Stephen Coyle, it was concluded, after specialist evidence
was heard, the injuries were non-accidental and must have
been caused by her parents because no-one else had the
opportunity to do so, Justice Panckhurst's decision said.
A care and protection order was made, and the child placed in
the care of a family member. The family then appealed the
order to the High Court.
Justice Panckhurst said he agreed with Judge Coyle's finding
that the initial conclusion the baby's injuries were
non-accidental was reached with ''`unseemly haste'' and
before the diagnosis she had vitamin D deficiency rickets.
Judge Coyle also found the paediatrician's assessment the
baby's injuries were life-threatening was ''clearly an
exaggeration'', yet it comprised the catalyst for the interim
custody order without notice.
Justice Panckhurst: ''The treatment of the parents and the
circumstances surrounding the initiative to have C [the baby]
removed from her parents care also provide cause for
Symptoms of significant rickets did not show on X-rays, an
issue medical experts did not agree on during the case, he
Southern District Health Board patient services medical
director Dick Bunton said staff followed established
protocols, which were in place to protect babies and children
''Without commenting on this case in particular, we believe
that when these are followed with empathy and respect, they
are appropriate. We will review the judgement to see if any
changes are required.''
Child, Youth and Family southern regional director Kelly
Anderson said the department accepted the High Court
''This was an incredibly complex case with conflicting
The original decision to place the baby in the care of wider
family was made by the Family Court after considering the
medical evidence and the opinions of various specialists.
The department's role and legal mandate was to act in the
best interests of the child.
At the time, social workers were confronted with a
14-week-old baby with numerous unexplained fractures.
Specialists believed these injuries were non-accidental, she
''We believed that the best option was for this baby to be
placed in care and the Family Court agreed.
''In cases like this we rely on advice from experts and we
will continue to do so.''
• Covers a range of bone conditions
• Vitamin D deficiency causes soft bones in adults; in
children it causes rickets.
• Sometimes known as the ''English disease'', as it was
common when industrial pollution limited sunlight exposure in
• In growing children, it causes failure of bone formation in
the growth plate, causing delayed growth, limb deformity
(bowing) and in some cases, fractures.
• Is the most severe consequence of Vitamin D deficiency and
only occurs in a small minority of cases.
*Source: Justice Panckhurst's High Court decision.