Monday 16 October 2017

Drunken father spared jail after violently swinging baby around

Sonya McLean

A FATHER has been given a five-year suspended sentence after he was caught by gardai drunkenly swinging his four-week-old baby boy in the crook of his arm.

The court heard that the baby's head was moving around violently and that the man threatened to drop the infant if the gardai came any closer to him.

Officers were concerned for the child as he was not crying and there was no movement or sound from him. The father was later subdued by gardai and his son was taken from him.

The baby was taken to hospital, where he was found to have some bruising but was otherwise fully alert, with normal vital signs.

The 30-year-old, who cannot be name to protect the child's identity, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to wilfully exposing a child in his care to injury by, while intoxicated, swinging the child around with his head unsupported at a Dublin address on February 28, 2012.

He also admitted possession of a blade on the same occasion. The man has three previous convictions, including a drug offence for which he received a jail term.

The court heard that he had since reconciled with the baby's mother and that they now have a second child.

Garda Ciaran O'Neill told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that the man told officers in interview that he "felt s**t" about what had happened and said he would not have done it had it not been for the alcohol and prescription tablets he had taken.

DRUGS

He agreed with Ann Marie Lawlor BL, defending, that her client said he had the knife because his partner had previously been threatened. Garda O'Neill accepted that both the man and his partner believed this threat was credible, which is why the father removed the baby from the house.

He further accepted that what he witnessed was extraordinarily reckless and negligent but that it did not seem to be an intentional act to harm the child.

He said the couple had positively engaged with the HSE and that the HSE had no concerns about the child's welfare.

Judge Patrick McCartan had said at an initial sentencing hearing that he had grave concerns about the case and had adjourned it for updated HSE reports.

"Having said that, it's quite clear that he (the accused) has made very significant efforts to put right the very grievous wrong he did," the judge said.

He had adjourned sentencing pending an indication from the HSE that it was safe for the man to move back in with his family. However, he was told by Mr Baker yesterday the HSE hadn't been able to provide this information.

The judge said that he was going to proceed to sentence "given the difficulties the HSE have in meeting their obligations in this case and that they don't think this matter is a priority".

He said the court could not wait for the HSE "to get its house in order".

Judge McCartan called it a reprehensible offence and said the accused should go to prison because "children need to be protected" but that he must take his personal circumstances into account.

He imposed a five-year term, which he suspended in full for 10 years. The judge said he was suspending it for so long so the child could grow up safely.

Irish Independent

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