Friday 22 March 2019

Man (26) jailed for 'chilling' assault on partner's baby, fracturing her skull

Stock picture
Stock picture

Ralph Riegel

A YOUNG man who assaulted his girlfriend's infant daughter, fracturing her skull so badly that it shattered, was jailed for eight years for an attack a judge described as "chilling".

The 26-year-old - who cannot be named for legal reasons - was warned by Judge Sean O'Donnabhain that he had shown "no insight and little remorse" for what the nine month old girl had suffered.

"This was an enormous breach of trust," he warned.

"The evidence (from a consultant radiologist about the injuries inflicted) was chilling."

"There is (also) the seriousness of an assault by a grown adult on a baby."

Judge O'Donnabhain said that medical experts at Cork University Hospital (CUH) assessed the infant's head injuries as life threatening.

He noted that "significant force" would have been required to inflict the scale of skull injuries involved.

It was unclear whether the infant had sustained a single, powerful blow to the head or whether her head had been driven forcefully up against a hard surface.

Health Service Executive (HSE) experts acknowledged that while the child has since made a good physical recovery from her injuries, there were still concerns about her.

The child suffered from headaches in the wake of the incident and also displayed an aversion to bright lights.

"There are a number of behavioural queries (over her)," a Garda said.

The young man denied charges of assault causing serious harm and wilful neglect of a child before Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

However, a jury of seven men and five woman unanimously convicted him last November following almost 90 minutes of deliberation after a week long trial.

He was convicted of assault causing harm to the nine month old little girl and wilful neglect of both her and her two year old sister.

The charges all related to an address in Cork on December 31 2016 and other dates that month.

The defendant had been remanded in custody for the past three months to allow for the preparation of a victim impact statement.

He remained silent as Judge O'Donnabhain jailed him for eight years.

The man received a 10 year sentence for assault causing serious harm to the infant but had the final two years suspended.

Judge O'Donnabhain imposed a consecutive two year sentence for the man's neglect of the infant and her older sister but agreed to fully suspend this.

During the trial, the infant's mother said she was shocked on returning home on December 31 2016 to see the physical condition of her infant daughter.

The woman had left her infant daughter - who was sleeping in a cot - in the care of her boyfriend while she took her two year old daughter to the park to play.

She had both children with a previous partner with whom her relationship had ended some time beforehand.

The woman then became involved in a relationship with the defendant and he was caring for her infant that day.

Their relationship had commenced only a few months previously.

She was appalled at the injuries visible on the infant when she returned.

The mother of two said: "Her head was deformed - on a huge scale."

In giving evidence, the young mother became extremely distressed in recalling the scale of the injuries the infant had suffered.

“Her ear was nearly down by her jaw and you could see her blood vessels. She just seemed in shock. I screamed and I was crying, just like I am now."

The woman said she immediately confronted her then-boyfriend about precisely what had happened.

“I started firing angry question at him - why he did not answer the phone (earlier)?"

"He said, 'I was downstairs smoking a cigarette (at the front door). I heard three bangs. She (the infant) was on the floor'. I shouted at him and I asked him to leave."

The mother recalled that the only response she got from the defendant was a request that he be allowed take from the house the PlayStation console he had received as a Christmas present.

"That was the end of all - just get the hell out of my house,” she told the court she had ordered him.

The young mother immediately sought medical assistance for her distressed infant.

The woman has since been convicted of neglect and received a suspended sentence.

However, Judge O'Donnabhain described her as "a truthful and forthcoming witness" and said her neglect was "not seeing what was going on and not protecting her children."

A paramedic who attended the scene that day said the defendant insisted the nine month old girl was in her cot crying when he went to check on her.

The trial heard from paediatric consultant, Prof Jonathan Hourihan, about the scale of the injuries suffered by the infant.

He said her skull fracture amounted to a very serious injury which involved an effective shattering of the skull.

Other fractures were also found.

“It is not one skull fracture - it is nearly ten fractures,” he said.

Consultant Radiologist Prof Michael Moore, said the head injury was peculiar in that it involved both sides of the child's skull.

Judge O'Donnabhain said the injury was clearly life-threatening.

"The force (used) had to be massive. The skull was, in effect, shattered," he said.

He also noted that both the infant and her older sister were left "traumatised."

The court was told the defendant had a number of previous convictions including one for an unprovoked 2011 assault on a man walking home.

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