Father jailed for slapping and kicking autistic son (5) on street
A father has been jailed for slapping, kicking and dragging his vulnerable five-year-old autistic son.
The Co Tyrone man, who is aged in his 30s but cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, was observed punching and kicking his son.
The man appeared before Dungannon Magistrates Court for sentencing, after switching his plea to guilty, having originally denied the charge.
The court heard police were called to an incident in Cookstown on the morning of September 8, 2015, after a witness observed the male slap the boy hard twice around the head, causing him to fall to the ground.
The male then kicked the child twice "with considerable force", as he lay on the ground, then dragged him to a car, in which three other children and an adult female were seated. Two women who witnessed the incident challenged the male, who replied, "What the f*** is it to do with you?" People in the vicinity also noticed the female in the car - who it transpired was the child's mother - made no effort to intervene.
Police traced the male, who after caution replied: "My son has behavioural problems and that is how you need to act with him."
During the interview, he admitted lifting the boy to the car but denied hitting or kicking him. He maintained this until the day a contest was to be heard, but then changed his plea.
A defence barrister explained his client now accepted the assault and understood the circumstances are serious, given the child's particular vulnerability, which includes being unable to speak.
The defence urged the court to regard the matter as "an isolated incident", which drew a furious response from District Judge John Meehan. He asked: "What am I to make of the remarks that this is how you treat this boy? Or that the mother sat passive and showed no impression of shock at what was a sustained and protracted scene of violence?
"In addition, he told the police what was alleged by others was a pack of lies. He was defiant and dismissive both at the scene and at the police station."
He continued: "This is a case of very acute concern. We are dealing with a five-year-old boy who has no means of communication and is not able to speak for himself. The silent evidence of that poor child means the court cannot treat this as a one-off."
The defence advised his client understands the child's specific issues, but claimed "there was a lack of education in dealing with the boy."
But Judge Meehan countered: "Does knowing not to kick a child require a course? The court has a duty to this silent child."
Addressing the defendant directly, Judge Meehan said, "The more I read the details of this case, the more I find which concerns me. Witnesses at the scene were shocked and terrified, but nevertheless stepped into the theatre of risk having seen you abuse your little boy. You brazenly, falsely told police it was all lies. You have no real remorse for this episode which you minimise.
"This child is incapable of speaking for himself, of telling anyone if he is being treated badly. I accept he is a challenging child, but there are boundaries."
Jailing the father for three and a half months, Judge Meehan concluded: "I see this as an extremely grave situation."
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