Wednesday 13 December 2017

Dad gets five year suspended sentence for drunkenly swinging four-week old baby by arm

Sonya McLean

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

The court heard that the baby’s head was moving violently around and the man threatened to drop the infant if the gardaí 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 man was later subdued by gardaí and his son 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 its head unsupported at a Dublin address on February 28, 2012.

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

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

Gda Ciaran O’Neill told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting that the man told officers in interview that he “felt shit” 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.

He agreed with Ann Marie Lawlor BL, defending that her client said he had the knife because his partner had previously been threatened.

He accepted that both the man had his partner believed this threat was credible which is why he removed the baby from the house.

Gda O’Neill further accepted that what he witnessed was extraordinarily reckless and negligent but did not seem to be an intentional act to harm this child.

He said the couple had positively engaged with the HSE and the now one-year-old boy is considered loved by both his parents and the HSE have no concerns about his welfare.

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

“While I accept the proposition of recklessness and disregard, the seriousness of the case was the fact that he removed an infant of that age from his home at midnight,” the judge said.

He said also had concerns about the man’s involvement in drugs.

“Having said that it’s quite clear that he has made very significant efforts to put right the very grievous wrong he did,” the judge said.

Judge McCartan had adjourned sentencing previously 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 today/yesterday (WED) that the HSE haven't been able to provide this information.

Judge McCartan 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 can't wait around 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 ten years. He said he was suspending it for so long so the child can grow up safely.

Gda O’Neill told Mr Baker that he was on mobile patrol close to midnight when he was made aware that a new born baby had been taken from his home by his father.

The baby’s mother was concerned because the man was drunk at the time. She told gardaí she believed that the man was heading toward his own home and that he had some kind of knife with him.

Gda O’Neill said he spotted the man a short time later and saw he was holding the baby boy in the crook of his right arm.

“The baby was not supported and his head was moving violently around,” Gda O’Neill said.

“We just wanted to make sure the baby was OK but he refuse to let us see the baby and walked away. I stood in front of him and told him that everyone was worried about the baby but he threatened to drop him if we came near him,” Gda O’Neill said.

He said at this stage they became concerned for the child as he was not crying or moving and he called for assistance from colleagues.

Gda O’Neill said he grabbed the man’s hand and told him to hand over the baby, the man was subdued and the baby was taken from him.

Officers then searched the man and found a lock knife on him.

Gda O’Neill agreed with Ms Lawlor that the couple are now back in a relationship and that the man comes from a good family.

Gda O’Neill said the man was co-operative and came across as a decent young lad.

Online Editors

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