May 2021

Dundee woman who burned child with iron dodges prison term

A woman who left a triangular burn mark on a toddler after deliberately scalding him with a hot iron has been allowed to walk free from court.

Coral Chalmers, 23, was found guilty by a jury at Dundee Sheriff Court of attacking and injuring the 23-month-old boy with an iron.

Chalmers tried to claim the youngster had inflicted the burns on himself by backing into a cooker which was still hot after being switched off 45 minutes earlier.

But the jury rejected her story after hearing from medical experts that the distinctive shape of the burn on the boy’s skin matched the heat plate of an iron.

The jury took little over an hour to find Chalmers guilty of using the iron to assault the boy at a house in the city between 28 and 30 November 2019.

Chalmers, from Dundee, was ordered by Sheriff Alistair Carmichael to carry out 200 hours unpaid work in the community as a direct alternative to prison.

Sheriff Carmichael said: “It is a serious matter. I have to consider a custodial sentence in this case, but I also have to think about other options. In this case I think there are other options.”

Solicitor Douglas Thomson, defending, said: “She has been subject to a degree of hostility from members of the public and it is her intention to move outwith the district.

“It has been a difficult few weeks following her conviction. She has not had her issues to seek. She is not somebody that society needs protected from.”

The trial heard from a paediatric expert who concluded that the triangular burn sustained by the young boy was most likely to have been caused by an iron.

Jurors were told how Chalmers brought the child to King’s Cross Hospital on 30 November because she was concerned he had a cold.

The boy was later taken to Ninewells Hospital and she told doctors who questioned the injury that it had been caused the previous evening.

Chalmers claimed the injury happened while she was holding the child and trying to reach for a cupboard. Chalmers said the cooker was still hot 45 minutes after using it.

However, a police scene examiner revealed that a test found the oven would have cooled to just 30 degrees in less than half that time.

Dr Jenny Fraser assessed the child and prepared a report which concluded that the injury was “non-accidental.”

She told the jury: “If it was an accidental burn it would not be symmetrical. Contact would only need to be less than a second for a burn to occur.

“Overall this injury to the thigh is consistent with an inflicted burn with a household iron.”

Fiscal depute Stewart Duncan asked: “Given the shape of the burn, it was suggested that the child had been sat on the cooker, could the injury have come from that?”

Dr Fraser replied: “If a child had been sat on top of it, it would have had a more rounded appearance. You would be more likely to see a burn on the buttocks.”

She also dismissed a suggestion from Chalmers’ solicitor Douglas Thomson that the boy might have been injured by backing into the iron.

“The shape of the burn fits with the pattern of the iron,” she said. “I can never be 100% certain but I have difficulty envisioning how the iron would be set-up that the child would back into it in that manner.”

Dr Katherine Lawlor examined the child at Ninewells Hospital and she said she had “misgivings” about the version of events she was provided with by Chalmers.

Chalmers told police the child “never said anything or made a noise” after coming into contact with the cooker and was later sitting on a couch and watching cartoons.

In her evidence, Chalmers told jurors she felt “horrible” about the child’s injury, but she denied deliberately scalding his leg. She said she only noticed the burn the following day.

Chalmers was found guilty by a majority of injuring the child, who cannot be named, by assaulting him and burning him on the leg with an iron.