Thursday 21 September 2017

Dad who caused baby brain injury avoids jail term

Greg Harkin

A FATHER who shook his own baby daughter so violently he caused her brain damage and cracked her ribs has walked free from court.

Shaun McCahill (21) admitted three counts of assault causing harm on the baby who was just nine weeks old at the time of the last of three incidents in which he had shaken her.

But Judge John O'Hagan said he would not send McCahill to jail because of the bonds he had built with the girl since.

The judge also allowed the naming of McCahill in court, but banned the identification of the child.

Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court heard McCahill, from St Mary's Terrace, Ramelton, Co Donegal, had shaken the baby girl on three occasions – twice with his hands and once as she was in a pram.

Garda Joe McManus said officers launched an investigation on May 19, 2011, when the baby was transferred to Letterkenny General Hospital after suffering convulsions while she was being minded by McCahill.

The child was later brought to Temple Street Children's Hospital where older injuries were detected by doctors who concluded the injuries were not accidental.

Gda McManus said the father later admitted that he shook the little girl on three separate occasions because he could not get her to stop crying.

The court also heard how McCahill now rarely goes out and has also tried to take his own life.

The judge asked the mother if she thought McCahill meant to hurt the baby. She replied that she "honestly couldn't say".

There was a hope the baby would recover from the brain injury in time, the court heard.

Both McCahill and the baby's mother wept on occasion during the hearing. Barrister for the accused, Charlotte Simpson, said McCahill felt sick and ashamed of what he had done and would have to live with it for the rest of his life.

Judge O'Hagan said there was "no way" he was imposing a custodial sentence.

"This is a very emotional case. It's a tragic case of a dad who lost it," he said.

"He was faced with a situation of a little girl crying and he couldn't do anything to stop it. He picked her up twice and shook her but of course that didn't keep her quiet. He's 21.

"What experience of fatherhood does a person of that age have? I don't know. It's very stressful for anyone.

"I'm sure he had no idea what he was doing but the consequences are rather serious. A nine-week-old baby is like putty and this happened. I have no doubt he did not intend this to happen. The upset and crying of the baby was driving him mad.

"He knows it was the wrong thing to do but I don't think he will ever do it again."

STIGMA

The judge added that the man would have to live with the social stigma of what happened and knowing every day that he caused these injuries to his little girl.

Judge O'Hagan said he also perhaps faced the situation of one day having to tell his daughter what he did to her.

"How would you explain to the little girl where Daddy had gone – Daddy has gone to prison for 12 months for shaking you when you were crying," he said.

He sentenced the man to one year in prison on each charge to run concurrently but ordered the jail sentence be replaced by 150 hours' community service.

McCahill sat in court crying, comforted by his parents, while the child's mother was consoled by two female friends.

Irish Independent

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