Vladimir Hitrov was charged with breaking his partner's 10-month-old baby's right humerus and causing an inner avulsion fracture of the top part of the left humerus in the spring of 2015. He has previously caused traumas to the central part of both of the child's femurs, regarding which periosteum reaction points to fracture or concussion.
Hitrov was also charged with causing an avulsion fracture of the top part of the right femur and physical pain between April 10-18, 2015.
Harju County Court acquitted Hitrov on February 17, 2016. The court agreed that fractures dating from different time periods have been caused by exercising using excessive force and against the child's instinctive resistance.
The ruling cites two witnesses who said Hitrov handled the baby in a way that left them both fearing for the boy's safety. The court also notes that looking at a video of exercises allegedly used, the court suspected they might not be suitable for a child of such a young age.
The county court concluded that if an adult carries out an intensive exercise regime with an infant not prescribed by a specialist, it is possible the child could come to physical harm and experience pain. However, all circumstances considered, it is impossible to claim beyond doubt that Hitrov was aware of all possible consequences.
No ill will
The court found that Hitrov's actions were based on a desire to train the child and not spoil him; that is, raise him to be a girl. Evidence in no way suggests the man harbored ill intent toward the child.
Most of the evidence suggested Hitrov had acted to the best of his knowledge, believing that the exercises would develop and not hurt the child. The court did not rule out that the man had believed the child's cries to be a tantrum, as opposed to being caused by physical pain and injuries.
Witnesses have described Hitrov's exercises as so extreme they could not bear to watch. Court materials reveal one of the witnesses allegedly told Hitrov the exercises could harm the baby, only to be ignored. If Hitrov said the exercises were meant to promote the child's development, witnesses claimed the infant lost interest in trying to walk after the exercises, even though he had taken a few steps before that.
First the child was simply less active, whereas his arm was noticeably pensile, which made it difficult to grab toys or crawl. A few days later, one of the witnesses noticed the child's leg turned outward, that he couldn't put weight on it, and cried when the leg was moved.
The county court's acquittal was appealed by District Attorney Lea Pähkel, in whose opinion Hitrov should at least have admitted, based on life experience, that in a situation where the child is screaming in pain during exercises, continuing them could lead to physical harm.
Tallinn District Court annulled the judgment of the county court and made a new decision in which it convicted Hitrov of clauses 2 and 3 of subsection 2 of section 121 of the Penal Code and handed him a nine month conditional sentence with a probation period of one year.
The district court found that if an adult contorts and forces a small child into unnatural positions, the child crying as a result of this activity is a sufficiently convincing sign of physical pain, even in a situation where the adult claims it is their aim to physically develop the child.
The judicial panel found that an objective bystander realizes that if an adult man forces a baby into unnatural positions that causes the child to cry out, said exercises could cause injury. Situations where the accused exercised with the baby over long periods of time and the child cried during this process can no longer be interpreted as tantrums, the court ruled.
Hitrov's defender appealed the ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that Hitrov understood and accepted the fact that he caused the child considerable pain during exercising and upheld the district court's nine months' conditional sentence.