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A High Court judge has called for lessons to be learnt from the “needless” death of a toddler after she accidentally ingested cocaine at home.
The three-year-old, identified only as K, died in hospital in April last year. Post-mortem and toxicology results indicated that her death from cardiac arrest was consistent with her having ingested the class A drug.
Mr Justice Williams concluded in a ruling published yesterday that K died after ingesting cocaine brought into her home by her father. The judge, who heard evidence over 24 days between last April and July, said that the drug was “carelessly left in such a way and in such a quantity as to be ingested by K”.
At the conclusion of his judgment, he said: “If ever there was a lesson of the perils of drug misuse this provides it.”
The judge said the mother’s description of her daughter’s final moments was “harrowing”. He said that K woke in the morning, put her arm around her mother and collapsed as “her heart gave out from the damage it suffered”.
He said: “That represents a tragedy for K, a playful, cheeky and loving little girl with all of her life to live.” The judge was asked to make a series of findings about K’s death as part of care proceedings brought by the local authority responsible for her siblings.
Her death prompted a police investigation. Her parents and grandmothers were arrested but the ruling did not say whether anyone had been charged.
The judge concluded that K’s mother was “well aware” the father was bringing cocaine into her home. “It seems most probable that she turned a blind eye,” he said. “This was to kid herself. Given the nature of [the] father, it was a risk that any reasonable person ought to have identified and taken steps to actively protect the children from.”
The judge concluded that the paternal grandmother bore “some indirect responsibility in that she was the head of a family steeped in class A drug misuse and had been for many years”. But she was not directly responsible.
He said: “Whilst [the] father bears primary responsibility, the mother secondary and the paternal grandmother a more diffuse responsibility they are not . . . ‘bad’ characters.”