15 September 2023

Parents charged after four-year-old child taken to hospital with skull fracture, bruises

| Claire Fenwicke
Magistrate Court Coat of Arms

A stepfather and mother have been accused of injuring their young son. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

CONTENT WARNING: This article details the alleged assault of a child and may distress some readers.

A man and woman have separately been granted bail after being charged over the alleged assault of a four-year-old boy.

According to the police statement of facts, paramedics had contacted ACT Policing on Wednesday (13 September) at about 5 pm advising officers they had a child en route to hospital with a “suspected skull fracture”.

Paramedics told police they had been called to a Holt address where the child’s stepfather and mother told them the boy had fallen off his bicycle and hit his head.

“They observed [the alleged victim] to be drowsy, pale, was vomiting and had a misshapen head,” the documents stated.

“They assessed the injuries to be inconsistent with a fall off a bike.”

When the paramedics arrived at the Canberra Hospital, a doctor noted the boy had circular bruises on his head, buttocks, spine, hip, both knees, one hand and one leg.

The doctor said she held “extreme concerns” for the child’s safety and advised police that it appeared the boy had been “repeatedly struck” with a blunt, circular object.

Scans revealed the boy had a fractured skull and small brain bleeds.

A supervising nurse told police that the child had allegedly told her: “Pa hurt me today and Ma hurt me yesterday because I was annoying.”

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The boy’s 28-year-old mother was with him at the hospital and was subsequently placed under arrest.

In a police interview, she claimed the boy had no bruises when she left him in the care of her partner that day, but upon her return, she was told he had fallen off his bike.

She denied hurting or hitting the child and told police she had “never smacked” him.

Police had more difficulty locating the boy’s 29-year-old stepfather, but he was eventually arrested late Thursday afternoon (14 September).

The man told police he had been looking after the boy and had noticed a “squishy” bruise on the back of his head but didn’t know where it had come from.

He said he’d heard a “series of bangs” after unloading some tools from his truck and that the boy had told him “I fell off my bike” and “I hit my head on the concrete”.

The woman was charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm and fronted ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday, where she was granted bail.

The man appeared in court on Friday (15 September), charged with aggravated recklessly inflicting grievous bodily harm.

He entered a not-guilty plea.

Prosecutor Alexander Back argued against bail, stating the “extremely vulnerable alleged victim” was still receiving treatment in hospital and police had been unable to interview him.

“It’s suggested [the accused man] was actively avoiding arrest when police had their attention drawn to his matter,” she added.

The man’s Legal Aid lawyer, Lorenna Wienert, argued her client was on parole and hadn’t appeared to have breached those conditions.

“It shows [he] is able to comply with supervision from ACT Corrective Services,” she said.

Magistrate James Lawton granted the man bail, imposing conditions that he not contact his co-accused, her father or the child.

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The charges come just a week after the end of National Child Protection Week.

Officer in Charge of the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse team, Detective Acting Inspector Mick Woodburn, said any instance of child abuse was unacceptable and the community needed to recognise the signs of abuse earlier.

“We need the community to recognise the signs of family violence, child abuse and sexual assault so we can work together to prevent these types of crime,” he said.

“It is incredibly disheartening to see innocent children hurt at the hands of adults.”

Investigations are continuing into how the boy’s injuries occurred and he has been placed in foster care.

Police urge anyone who may have information regarding this particular alleged incident to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, quoting reference P2192125. Information can be provided anonymously.

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