exposing the dark side of adoption
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Care worker disciplined over boys

A retired health worker has been disciplined by the Nursing and Midwifery Council over the death of an orphan and injury to his brother.

Claire McDonnell, 66, was in charge of the care of David and Samuel Briggs.

The Romanian twins were adopted by a Northern Ireland missionary, who was jailed for hurting the injured boy.

Miss McDonnell, from Portadown, received a caution to last five years for failing to keep proper records and failing to identify families in need.

She will be allowed to remain on the nurses register.

Miss McDonnell was found guilty in 2004 of the charges by a NMC professional conduct committee, but no disciplinary action was taken.

'Unduly lenient'

The Council Regulator for Health Professionals appealed the decision and in the High Court a judge ruled the committee's initial decision was "unduly lenient and inappropriate".

The judge referred the case back to the committee to reconsider whether or not any action should be taken against Miss McDonnell.

On Thursday, after a committee hearing Miss McDonnell received the caution.

The committee said despite the issue of double jeopardy and the delay in the hearing, it was in the public interest to issue Miss McDonnell with a caution.

It said "this was necessary in maintaining public confidence with standards within the health profession".

The orphans David and Samuel, were adopted under Romanian law by a former overseas missionary Geoffrey Briggs and his wife in July 2000, and taken to live in Portadown.

Less than four months later, David, aged 14 months, was dead and 13 days after his death his brother Samuel was taken to hospital where it was found he was suffering from a fractured skull.

Briggs later admitted punching the child and and was later sentenced to two years for grievous bodily harm.

The child no longer lives with his adopted parents.

Following the discovery of the injuries to Samuel, the body of his twin was exhumed and a post mortem examination discovered 27 partially healed fractures across his tiny body.

'Increased workload'

No-one has ever faced charges over David's death.

Miss McDonnell was described by her solicitor at the hearing as an excellent member of staff.

He said the times when his client, who he added rarely took sick leave, had kept insufficient records were when she was "under an increased workload".

He also said there were staff shortages in the health trust at the time and that the trust covering Portadown has now revised its method of record keeping.

1996 Jun 15