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Fife man found not guilty after trial of ‘life-endangering’ assault on child

Jamie Lafferty was acquitted following the trial last week.

Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.
Henderson will return to Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court for sentencing next month.

A Fife man has been cleared of a “life-endangering” assault on a toddler following a trial.

Jamie Lafferty, 31, was accused of repeatedly applying pressure to the head and inflicting blunt force trauma to the head and body, of a two-year-old boy at a property in Leven on August 14 2018.

Five years on, an emotional Lafferty walked free from Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court after a jury took 45 minutes to find him not guilty of assault to the danger of life.

Giving evidence, Lafferty said he had left the boy unattended for ten-to-15 minutes as he put away laundry upstairs, then heard a “thud” and ran down to find him “on all fours” beside a dog crate.

Lafferty, a former postman, told the trial he presumed the child had been climbing on the dog crate and had fallen, as there was a small stool which appeared to have been pulled up beside it.

He said he noticed a cut to the boy’s head and a mark on his cheek and applied an ice pack.

Concern over nature of injuries

The trial heard the child was taken to A&E at Victoria Hospital later that day and seen by a registrar, who flagged concerns about the nature of his injuries.

A forensic medical examination was carried out the next day by a paediatrician and a forensic physician.

Doctor Michael Kaim, the forensic physician, highlighted an area of ‘petechial’ bruising – caused by small blood vessels breaking under the skin – on both sides and back of the neck and left shoulder.

He said the presence of this type of bruising in a child is a “very strong indicator of abusive injuries,” and compression or pressure being applied to the affected areas was the most realistic cause.

The doctor also highlighted bruising to both ears, which he said is also known as a “strong predictor for abusive mode of infliction”.

He said it does not mean an accident cannot cause such injuries but because both ears were affected that would be “extremely unlikely”.

The doctor said: “Globally, the findings in (the boy) must be classified as extremely concerning from the perspective of child protection”.

Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.
The child was examined by experts at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, who gave evidence to the trial.

Dr Kaim also pointed out petechial bruising on both sides of the boy’s face and bruising around his left upper eyelid.

He said: “I think it’s quite safe to say there was more than one episode of blunt force trauma by impact or by pressure applied.”

Defence lawyer Christine Hagan suggested a scenario of the child falling on the dog crate on one side and their neck or garment being caught, causing pressure, then falling on the opposite side of the body.

The doctor said this was not realistic but Ms Hagan said “freak accidents” do happen and it cannot be said definitively the injuries were non-accidental.

Accidental injury explanation argued

Paediatrician Dr Krishnan Aniruddhan told the trial he was especially concerned by the injuries on both ears and some bruising on the left eyelid, which he described as a “very unusual location for an accidental injury”.

He said the injuries remain unexplained but added: “A non-accidental explanation seems to be the most likely one based on the literature and based on the location and pattern of injuries”.

Defence agent Ms Hagan suggested again the possibility of an accident could not be excluded.

In her closing submissions, she argued the doctors could not say how the injuries were inflicted or if the bruising was caused by a person, adding: “It certainly could have been an object”.

She stressed her client had given an account in court which had not changed since he spoke to police at the time and he has never known what happened.

Lafferty was found not guilty by majority verdict.

Lafferty, of Leven, was supported by family throughout the trial and was visibly emotional as he left the dock.

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