$60k award after baby wrongly seized



A judge has awarded $60,000 to the parents of a baby girl wrongly seized by welfare authorities.

The young couple, from Dunedin, have told the Sunday Star-Times of their harrowing two-year battle to regain custody of the girl, who was taken by Child, Youth and Family at just 14 weeks because the agency wrongly suspected she’d been abused.

In fact, the baby’s multiple fractures were the result of rickets, caused by a lack of Vitamin D.

The pair were forced to go to court to prove they hadn’t abused the baby.

The couple, who cannot be named because of Family Court suppressions, took their daughter to a doctor in 2011 after she began “vomiting and twitching”.

The doctor suspected a bowel obstruction and arranged for the baby to be admitted to hospital. An MRI in hospital revealed the baby had a fractured skull, ribs and limbs.

The parents were interviewed by police and two days later, without notification, Child, Youth and Family applied for interim custody, which was granted.

Three days later tests showed the baby had severe vitamin D deficiency and rickets – a Victorian era condition, which can lead to fractures and deformity of bones. The couple thought at that point their daughter would be returned to them.

But when the case went to the Family Court, doctors were at odds over whether the infant’s injuries were caused by trauma or rickets. A Family Court judge ruled in favour of the CYF decision to remove the baby.

Judge John Coyle said there was no evidence the “doting parents” were mistreating their daughter, but rejected rickets as a cause and said he could only conclude one of the parents caused her broken bones.

The baby was sent to live with her paternal aunt. Her parents had to sell their house in Dunedin and move to the North Island so they could continue to see her on supervised visits. The couple was able to force an appeal of the original decision with new evidence from a case in Britain.

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