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Bayne Trial Opens
January 16, 2010 permalink
The Bayne trial has opened in British Columbia. The opening testimony showed that the intitial complaint came from a former family friend forced into the position of competitor when the Baynes opened a music business. The press is not using the name "Bayne".
Surrey couple challenge shaken baby allegation
Last Updated: Thursday, January 14, 2010 | 2:51 PM PT, CBC News
A Surrey B.C. couple accused of shaking their baby girl are taking their case to court to try to prove she has a medical disorder, in an attempt regain custody of their three children.
The couple's three children were taken away by the B.C. Ministry of Children and Families 2½ years ago after the allegation of abuse first arose.
The two boys, aged four and three, and the girl, who was just a baby at the time, have since been placed in foster care.
Outside a courthouse on Wednesday the couple, who have never been charged in the case, said their girl was never abused.
"We've asked for a second medical review and the ministry stated that they weren't interested in seeking that," said the mother, who can't be named because of a court-ordered publication ban that restricts any information that might identify the children involved.
"From the start, we have been in an uphill battle to prove our innocence, because we did not shake our baby. We did not harm any of our children," she said.
They claim the girl suffers from a rare medical condition and they have expert opinions to back them up, which they intend to present in court.
"We do know that we have 10 medical experts that have submitted reports that state that it's not shaken baby," said the mother.
Ministry documents back claims
The couple said they obtained internal documents last spring from the ministry which they say indicate their daughter likely suffers glutaric aciduria, a rare disease often mistaken for child abuse, because it can result in swelling of the brain and bleeding.
They said one of their sons tripped over the girl, which combined with the rare disease, led to a misdiagnosis of abuse.
But on Wednesday the court heard from two witnesses who originally informed the court about their suspicions that the couple's children were being abused.
Pastor Michael Hoffman and his wife Elizabeth were in charge of a church in Hope and were friends with the couple at the time.
Michael Hoffman advised police that based on psychology classes that he took at seminary that he believed the mother was suffering from post-partum depression and that she had Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, an uncommon condition in which a person harms another in order to gain attention.
The pastor's wife testified that the two boys seemed small for their age and that the little girl started looking increasingly listless.
But it also came out in court that both couples had started running rival businesses offering music lessons and their friendship deteriorated around the time the baby girl was born.
The parents who work as night janitors have hired high-profile defence lawyer Doug Christie to represent them in court.
Outside court on Wednesday, Christie said many parents often lack the resources to fight allegations of abuse.
"[It is] very difficult emotionally for parents who are innocent — and there are some — and that's what this case is about. All the power it seems to me is on the side of state in these cases," said Christie.
"Many experts and many doctors make their entire living working for government authorities and the case of Dr. Charles Smith in Ontario has demonstrated how dangerous that can be," he said, referring to the case of a doctor who was found to have falsely testified in a large number of court cases.
"People were put in jail for accusations of shaken baby syndrome and those people have served time for crimes they did not commit. That's why this becomes a very serious matter when you make allegations of this kind and base it entirely on opinion evidence," said Christie.
Support found online
The couple said they have received a lot of support from an online campaign they have been running, using Facebook, Twitter and blogs, and from a recent fundraiser.
"We're just glad that after two-plus years we're finally able to come before the court and present our medical evidence that we do have … and we are praying that at the end of the day the truth will come out and our children will be restored to our home," said the mother.
Since their children were taken away, the couple said they have only had limited visitation rights.
"Six hours a week is absolutely nothing … the visitations are actually quite hostile. We have been in every visitation supervised," said the mother.
"They have actually lost weight. They are actually about five pounds lighter than when this thing first started all this," said the father, referring to the boys.
" We are devastated by all the time we miss with her," said the mother, referring to her daughter.
The court hearing is expected to take three weeks.
Addendum: The crown application for a publication ban failed. Zabeth reports on the cross-examination of crown witnesses.
To All Our Supporters,
I want to apologize that I have not written everyone much as court has placed heavy demands on me in assisting Doug Christie our lawyer with the evidence he needs as he cross examines the Ministry witnesses. I thought you might be interested in the developments today as the Ministry tried to place an application on a publicity ban I think you call it due to the CBC story on the 13th.
Doug Christie opposed and was quite passionate about the subject. He presented on the spur of the moment a good 15 plus minute speech on the rights of the public to be informed. He could provide a more in depth outline of his presentation. One of his arguments was that the media had the right to participate and defend their position on reporting and for the Judge to decide after 15 minutes of receiving an oral application with no hearing was doing the justice system no good.
The Judge adjourned for about 30 minutes to decide and when he returned he stated that he was not going to approve the application this quickly as he felt that the decision to ban media from reporting on this case would not only effect this case but others that could come after this one. If the Ministry decided they still wished to proceed with the application then the media would need to have notice to defend their position in this.
Finn Jensen MCFD counsel stood and told the court that they would not proceed with the application to ban publicity from media on this case. Dismissed.
There is no ban and Doug Christie defended the rights of the media to report and the people to be informed.
This is interesting as the MCFD lawyer quoted from the Act where it was an offense for participants (he thought we were quoting the Hoffmans, but your reporter sat in) to inform the media of proceedings from child protection hearings. For there to be no ban in this case may open more doorways for better accountability through public exposure of the family court system.
An update from the MCFD cross examination:
On Thursday, Doug Christie cross examined team leader Berhe Gulbot. Under cross examination Berhe Gulbot agreed that he had a duty through his office to only present accurate and reliable information to the court. He agreed that he had a duty to inform the court of any information that he finds is false. Then under cross examination he was exposed to have submitted false information to the court records, which was relied upon to make the decision to remove all three children. He agreed that he knew the correct information prior to completing the court forms. Doug Christie suggested to him that he included false information in order to ensure he received the Interim Order he was seeking.
Other information includes, the MCFD is in confusion over how many experts reports they have. Previous communications prove ten reports were sent to the MCFD. Confirmation of nine reports has come in from MCFD counsel to be followed by counsel stating they have only six reports and then followed in court today by counsel stating they have only four reports and that their Dr. Colbourne has only seen four reports, yet in a previous email they state she has seen six. Doug Christie has requested they procure all ten reports and submit them to the court.
The MCFD has now retained Dr. Randell Alexander for a second medical opinion. He was key organizer of the event in Vancouver with the National Center For Shaken Baby Syndrome in Oct 08. He was presented as being an independent review but yet research reveals that he and Dr. Colbourne have long participated in these events and in this organization for many years. They also have participated in many "mock trials" in which a Judge participates and they learn how to prove the parent or guardian as guilty. You see they do not believe that there are any other differential diagnosis even in light of the Goudge Inquiry which had an opportunity to review the changing science in a medical legal setting.
Berhe Gulbot states that they have attended his events and that he believes in these positions regardless of how much he has read about the Goudge Inquiry. He believes in anything Dr. Colbourne tells him and finds any other expert without credibility. He went so far as to call the parents liars on the stand and tried to apologize - too late - his heart and mindset was revealed under oath. Since the onset of this case it has been the intention of the Ministry to solely seek a confession and in taking this position they have ignored the explanation of accidental injury and the subsequent ten experts who upon review support this explanation. In court it was also discovered that in taking this position they did not follow up with the many others who know us and had written their support and confidence in our family, skills as parents and members of the community and church.
Berhe Gulbot has been led through testimony from his counsel on Thursday morning and then cross examined by Doug Christie for the next day and a half. Doug Christie's reputation for "body slamming" his questions at the witness were not understatements.
Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to prepare for the next court sessions. Further to that our needs have expanded as we have been told by our lawyer to either quit work or take a leave for one month or we will not be able to assist him properly and will be too tired. He has told us that he wants us to stay in the Hotel near the courthouse he will be in during the trial dates and the room will have a extra meeting room in it for us to prepare each morning and evening with him. I will have to talk to our employer about this so please pray that following the trial we can continue in our work or that God provides something else.
Those of you that have been supporting us - thank you - and if there is any way that your support can continue to assist us through this time as with the lack of employment we will need to continue to keep our home as well as cover living expenses. On top of this we have an excellent lawyer who has proved these past three days that he is definitely up to the task. God has answered our prayers and sent us Doug Christie. Please help us support him.
Source: email from Zabeth Bayne