Family court rules dad WAS responsible for his baby’s death

Martin Thomas
Martin Thomas
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A WIGAN dad cleared of inflicting horrific injuries on his baby daughter who later died has been accused by a judge of being her attacker after all.

A jury took just 20 minutes to clear Martin Thomas of 10 counts of GBH with intent against little Evie Grace last year. The four-month-old tot had suffered 13 broken ribs and three skull fractures in five separate incidents before her death in 2013.

I find that sole responsibility for Evie’s injuries rests with the father and that the mother is entitled to be exonerated

Mr Justice Jackson

But in an unprecedented move this week a family court judge, who ruled in a custody battle between the 30-year-old and his former partner over Evie’s sister two years ago, agreed to lift the usual cloak of anonymity from the civil case in order to clear mum Hayley Fisher’s name over the assault.

She had asked Mr Justice Fisher to name them both because part of Thomas’s trial defence was to infer that the terrible wounds suffered by their daughter must have been inflicted by his ex instead.

And in so agreeing it shows the judge exonerated 26-year-old Ms Fisher and points blame for the injuries squarely at the father.

While it was stated in the Liverpool Crown Court trial that Evie died from unrelated causes, the family court judge said the injuries “significantly contributed” to Evie’s death even though the cause was unclear.

The judgment could not be published until after the criminal case had concluded.

After his acquittal Mr Thomas, who lived in Worsley Hall but has now moved to Bolton, spoke to the Wigan Evening Post and our sister paper the Wigan Observer of both his distress and relief.

He said: “All I ever wanted to do and set out to do was prove my innocence and now I have done that. I’ve been beaten up on the street and called names and for the last 20 months I’ve been stuck in the house. I had to leave my job and I’ve been suicidal, I tried taking my own life.

“You just wouldn’t believe how much of a weight off my shoulders it actually is. No-one can ever imagine or come close to imagining how I’ve felt unless they go through it themselves.

“I can now finally walk around the streets without looking over my shoulder and I can actually grieve properly for my daughter without any stress on my back.”

But now the finger of suspicion has been pointed at him once again, although legal experts say that the rule of “double jeopardy” would prevent him being re-tried for the attacks unless new and compelling evidence were to be produced.

Mr Thomas, who lost his job at Kitt Green’s Heinz factory because of the case against him, could not be contacted today.

Both Mr Thomas and his daughter suffered from Treacher Collins syndrome, an inherited condition which affects facial bones, but this was not linked to Evie’s death.

The case highlights the difference between levels of proof in the criminal and civil courts.

The trial jury would have had to have been certain “beyond all reasonable doubt” that Mr Thomas was responsible for the assaults to have convicted him.

The Family Court judge was ruling on the “balance of probability.”

And in his statement Mr Justice Jackson called Thomas a “determined liar” and said he was satisfied that Ms Fisher had no idea what Mr Thomas “was doing to their daughter.”

He added: “I find that sole responsibility for Evie’s injuries rests with the father and that the mother is entitled to be exonerated.”

Mr Thomas tried to prevent his name being published in the ruling, saying that “identification of the perpetrators of a crime is the purpose of the criminal court not the family court.”

But the judge rejected the argument, saying that Ms Fisher felt strongly that “an accurate report of what happened to Evie” should be made public.

Both parents were initially arrested on suspicion of Evie’s murder although the investigation was subsequently dropped against the mother and then a lesser charge put to Mr Thomas because a strong medical link could not be made between the injuries and the youngster’s death.

The family court test case has been welcomed by those campaigning for more transparency in family court hearings.