Woman convicted of fracturing baby’s skull had been cleared by civil court judge
A woman who was jailed after jurors concluded that she had fractured her baby son’s skull had already been cleared by a senior judge who analysed the case in separate family court proceedings.
Lord Justice Baker revealed detail of his findings about former law student Elizabeth Wilkins on Tuesday.
The judge, who is based in the Court of Appeal in London, had analysed evidence after council social services bosses with responsibility for the boy’s care asked him to make findings of fact on the balance of probabilities.
He has now released two rulings, made following private family court hearings, after considering arguments from lawyers and journalists about what the public should be told.
Wilkins, who studied at the University of Plymouth, was given a seven-year sentence in December 2018, when 24, following a trial at Plymouth Crown Court, after being convicted of a number of offences.
She had gone on trial with the baby’s father, Erick Vanselow, who she met at university and started living with in 2014.
Jurors said they were sure that Wilkins had caused her baby’s head injuries, in September 2016 when he was a few months old, and convicted her of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.
Mr Vanselow was acquitted after prosecutors withdraw a charge relating to the baby’s head injury.
But Lord Justice Baker had already reached a different conclusion.
He had concluded that Mr Vanselow, not Wilkins, inflicted a “series of injuries” to the baby’s head.
Lawyers think the case is unique.
They think it is the first time two people have been accused of harming a child and one has been convicted of an offence by a jury while the other has been blamed by a judge hearing evidence in a family court.
Wilkins has not appealed against her conviction or sentence.
A barrister who represented her in the civil court proceedings told Lord Justice Baker that she had experienced difficulties raising funds to pay for lawyers who could mount an appeal on her behalf.
The judge had first made findings in late 2017 when based in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
He reconsidered them following the conclusion of the criminal trial, after Mr Vanselow asked for a review, but in June this year reached the same conclusions.
By then he had been promoted to the Court of Appeal.
Lord Justice Baker on Tuesday released his 2017 and 2019 rulings.
He did not absolve Wilkins from any wrongdoing.
The judge said he thought she had caused a serious injury to her baby’s eyes.
He also said he had been unable to decide whether Wilkins or Mr Vanselow had been responsible for rib injuries.
Lord Justice Baker said Wilkins and Mr Vanselow could be named in media reports of the family court proceedings.
He said their son could not be named.
The judge also said nothing could be published which might disclose the boy’s present address.
“I found that (the baby) had sustained a number of serious physical injuries, that one of those injuries relating to (his) eyes had been inflicted by his mother, that another series of injuries to his head had been inflicted by his father, and that in respect of some of the injuries I was unable to identify whether the mother or father was the perpetrator,” said Lord Justice Baker in one of the rulings released on Tuesday.
“The mother was convicted of a number of offences, including an offence… of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent relating to the head injuries which I had found had been inflicted by the father.
“The father was acquitted of all charges, including the charge relating to the head injury.”
He added: “The mother received a sentence totalling seven years’ imprisonment.”
Lord Justice Baker said he had reviewed all available evidence following the conclusion of the crown court trial.
But he had concluded that his earlier findings should remain unchanged.
The judge said Wilkins and Mr Vanselow had met at university and started living together.
He said there were “difficulties” following the arrival of the baby.
“Both parents suffered from levels of depression for which they sought professional help,” he said.
“Their relationship came under pressure and there were frequent arguments and tensions.”
Lord Justice Baker said he had concluded that the baby sustained “the head injuries” when in the care of his father in the early hours of the morning.
They were “inflicted non-accidentally” by Mr Vanselow, the judge said.
Mr Vanselow had not told Wilkins about the “incident” until some hours later.
Wilkins had not noticed that her son was unwell because she had not paid “sufficient attention” to him.
Lord Justice Baker said there had been a delay in seeking medical attention.
He said that delay had been “catastrophic” and contributed to the “long-term damage” the boy had suffered.
Mr Vanselow and Wilkins, in “different ways”, bore a “shared responsibility” for that delay.
Lord Justice Baker said he had concluded that the boy had suffered eye injuries a few weeks before suffering head injuries.
He said they had probably been inflicted by Wilkins.
The judge said the head injuries were the “most serious”.
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