Thursday, 24 November 2011

SBS: Rioc Edwards-Brown false accusation

By Beth Hale 24th November 2011

Devoted: Rioch Edwards-Brown now helps other families who are wrongly accused of hurting their children
Devoted: Rioch Edwards-Brown now helps other families who are wrongly accused of hurting their children
Cradling her baby son, TV researcher Rioch Edwards-Brown stared in disbelief at the two social workers standing before her in the hospital room. Their lips were moving but she could barely make sense of what they were saying.
It was a moment that would fill any loving parent with horror. Rioch had just been told her six-month-old son Riordan — the baby she and her husband Ian had longed for — would be removed from her care in three days’ time.
Paralysed with shock, all she could focus on was the tiny bundle curled up against her chest and the voice inside her head telling her to breathe.
The memories of that Friday afternoon are as sharp today as they were 16 years ago.
‘For a split-second I couldn’t remember how to breathe,’ says the 46-year-old mother-of-four. ‘I couldn’t even tell you my name.’
Rioch and Ian found themselves thrust into a nightmare after a doctor decided their son’s ill health from birth — culminating in an unexplained fit — was caused by shaken baby syndrome. In other words, the caring parents were suspected of  shaking Riordan until his brain bled.
The suspicions were unjustified. Medical notes would later back up the fact Riordan had suffered a brain bleed during his premature birth, but by that time child protection proceedings had started — and seemed unstoppable. There were three court hearings and Rioch and Ian fought for nearly a decade to clear their names.
Today, that tiny fragile baby is a strapping young man who loves sport and is studying for A-levels after gaining 12 GCSEs. As for Rioch, she gave up her job working alongside her TV producer husband and started helping other parents facing similar ordeals.

 

For 15 years, without pay or outside funding, she has run The Five Percenters, a support group that takes its name from the fact that one in 20 cases of shaken baby syndrome is misdiagnosed. From a desk in the living room of her family home in New Cross, South-East London, Rioch, runs the 24-hour free advisory service.
Rioch and Ian’s fight for justice cost £50,000, but since then they have remortgaged their home and spent £250,000 funding the support group in the hope that other parents accused of shaking their babies or other abuse are spared the agony they faced.
Longed for son: Rioch with Riordan when he was two-years-old. She had to launch a legal batle to keep him after being falsely accused of shaken baby syndrome
Longed for son: Rioch with Riordan when he was two-years-old. She had to launch a legal batle to keep him after being falsely accused of shaken baby syndrome
Rioch — who also battled a benign brain tumour in 2009 — never imagined the nightmare ahead when she met Ian in 1990.
Their early hopes for children were cruelly crushed when she suffered a series of miscarriages caused by a cervical condition which doctors cured. She went on to have Riordan in 1995. He was born six weeks early, weighing 6lb 3oz.
The couple were delighted, although Rioch soon doubted his health. ‘He’d cry then suddenly stop,’ she said. ‘He looked beaten up, like he’d gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.’
Over the following months Riordan’s fragile health meant frequent tests.
‘Eventually, a doctor said he had suffered a brain bleed commonly associated with premature babies,’ recalls Rioch. ‘As we were leaving she said, “You haven’t ever dropped him have you?” I laughed and said, “No.” ’
But Rioch had a niggling doubt something more serious was wrong.
A week later, Riordan suffered a fit and ended up back at King’s College Hospital, London.
Days of tests and questions followed. ‘When the consultant told us Riordan had suffered the sort of bleed they would expect to see in a child with a lot of trauma I just couldn’t take in.
‘Ian said, “Do you mean like a boxer’s punch?”
She replied, “Yes, or Riordan being shaken and swung around by the ankles against a hard surface.”
‘I was told that if I made any attempt to leave the ward the police would be called.’
Mother and son today: Riordan has grown up to be strong and healthy despite his health problems as a child
Mother and son today: Riordan has grown up to be strong and healthy despite his health problems as a child
Rioch suddenly realised the finger of suspicion was pointing at her and Ian — and they were devastated when two social workers revealed they would apply to take Riordan into care within days.
Reeling with shock, they sought legal help and were able to keep Riordan. Three months later, with clear medical evidence pointing to injuries caused by birth trauma rather than abuse, a High Court judge threw out their case.
However, it took eight years before the shaken baby accusation was removed from council and hospital records.
Rioch and Ian went on to have three more children, but were terrified each time one fell sick, fearful they could be accused again.
‘I couldn’t afford for Riordan to get as much as a bruise,’ she says.
‘It was after I did a television interview and 40 families got in touch that I thought about starting the Five Percenters. I found myself wondering how a family without the support and contacts we had would ever stand up against this?’
Over the past 15 years Rioch has helped more than 4,000 families worldwide facing a similar ordeal. ‘Of course, it is disgusting that genuine abuse exists,’ she adds.
‘There will always be people who say they are innocent and are not. But I feel we have a duty to people like us who are wrongly accused. We were told we were a “one-off”, a mistake. But if they can make a mistake once, they can do it again.’
 Rioch’s vision, called 24:14, is for a nationwide hospital protocol ensuring all children suspected of being abuse victims are seen by paediatric specialists within 24 hours of admission and for the case to be reviewed within 14 days — sparing the agony of misdiagnosis and cases slipping through the net.
‘Doctors said Riordan wouldn’t walk, talk or swallow,’ she says. ‘But he is now built like a rugby player, eats me out of house and home and never stops talking. He’s amazing.
‘When people say to me, “Why do you do what you do?” I tell them that I have my kids when the majority of families who come to me don’t. I consider myself very fortunate.’
 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2065430/INSPIRATIONAL-WOMEN-OF-THE-YEAR-Falsely-branded-baby-batterer--Rioch-Edwards-Browns-fighter-justice.html#ixzz1edZgr5hM

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