Shaken Baby & Non Accidental Injury


Social Services have a duty to investigate and to take action to protect a child whenever an allegation of physical, emotional, or sexual harm is made. This also includes instances where Shaken Baby Syndrome or non-accidental injury are suspected.

The consequences for a parent accused of inflicting non-accidental injuries on their child are extremely serious and it is vital to seek legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity. Medical experts use three key injuries to conclude that child abuse has taken place however, these injuries can be caused by other incidents such as accidental trips and falls.”
Helen Bull, Partner

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

In the simplest terms, Shaken Baby Syndrome is a serious head injury that has been deliberately inflicted. Most commonly caused by a person forcefully shaking an infant or young child forcefully, this action causes the child’s brain to move back and forth inside their skull.

Shaken Baby Syndrome – now more commonly referred to as a non-accidental head injury (NAHI) – is mostly diagnosed when a child has sustained a serious head injury. Three key findings (known as the triad) may indicate that a child’s injury was sustained through being shaken. These injuries include:

  • Retinal bleeding (bleeding behind the eyes)
  • Hypoxaemic encephalopathy (swelling of the brain)
  • Subdural haemorrhage (bleeding on the brain)
  • Damage to the spine
  • Damage to the neck

As Shaken Baby Syndrome may not present any obvious external injuries (such as a head wound or bruising), it’s important for parents, care givers and medical professionals to look out for potential symptoms and indicators of SBS. These include:

  • Lethargy and drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting
  • Feeding issues
  • Abnormal or involuntary movements
  • Seizures

If a child is taken to hospital, their symptoms will be assessed and investigated. In cases where medical experts suspect abuse or identify symptoms that indicate an infant may have been deliberately and forcefully shaken, they will make an immediate referral to the local authority to inform them of the incident. When investigating the referral, other factors will also be considered by social services and medical professionals. These include whether the child or their siblings are subject to a child protection plan, the child’s medical history, the parent’s behaviour and whether there are any issues with abuse and addiction in the home.

The diagnosis of NAHI has resulted in parents and caregivers being jailed for grievous bodily harm, manslaughter and even murder. If you have been accused or you have any concerns relating to this, please contact us.

What is a non-accidental injury?

A non-accidental injury is a broad term, given to any injury that was deliberately inflicted. This can include:

  • Non-accidental head injuries (NAHI)
  • Damage to the skin
  • Damage to the bones
  • Damage to the eyes
  • Damage to the genitals
  • Induced illnesses

If you’ve sought medical attention for an injury that cannot be explained satisfactorily, social services may become involved and care proceedings could be issued.

How can you help?

At Nash & Co Solicitors, our legal representatives specialise in acting on behalf of parents who have been accused of inflicting a non-accidental injury or causing Shaken Baby Syndrome. We have experienced Solicitor-Advocates* and members of the specialist Law Society Children’s Panel who can represent you and assist you through every step of the proceedings. We will consider with you whether applications should be made for independent medical experts to re-consider the medical evidence presented by the treating doctors and will aim to reunite your family.

* A Solicitor Advocate is, in basic terms, someone who is fully qualified as a solicitor but has gained the same rights as a barrister by obtaining an extra qualification.

What else do I need to know?

Whenever a child is presented for medical attention and non-accidental injury or Shaken Baby Syndrome is suspected, a referral will automatically be made to Social Services and usually to the Police. Social Services will also step in, and care proceedings are likely to be set in motion. In the first instance, Social Services will try to place your child with a relative (such as grandparents) but if this is not possible, or if arrangements are not adhered to, your child may be placed into foster care.

What should I do next?

If your child has suffered an injury which results in symptoms including drowsiness, fitting, difficulty feeding or breathing, vomiting and general irritability or you notice other changes that cause any concern; contact Helen Bull or one of her team. Helen’s email address is [email protected] or you can call her on 01752 827024.

We recognise that any injury will cause concern and that the circumstance surrounding some injuries may result in you having to answer questions that could have serious consequences; this is where we can help.