Monday 18 March 2019

Man who slapped his daughter in car park is 'co-operating with Probation and Welfare service' - court told

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Ralph Riegel

A MAN who slapped his three year old daughter during a struggle to place her in the family car at a busy shopping centre is co-operating fully with Probation and Welfare Service (PWS) officials.

The revelation came as the 46 year old - who cannot be named for legal reasons - also faces a charge of attempting to interfere with a witness.

Judge Olann Kelleher at Cork District Court adjourned sentencing of the man on the child slapping charge until the witness interference issue is fully resolved.

Eddie Burke, defence solicitor, said he had only received CCTV footage from Gardaí in relation to the alleged witness interference charge in the last 24 hours.

He said he now needed time to view the footage involved.

Mr Burke confirmed that his client was co-operating fully with the PWS.

Judge Kelleher said he wanted to deal with both matters at the same time and adjourned the two issues to March 8 next.

The defendant appeared before Cork District Court on a charge of assaulting his daughter on July 23 2017.

Judge Olann Kelleher ordered the PWS report after deciding that, while he found the facts proven against the man, he wanted to consider alternatives to recording a conviction.

He said he wanted to consider the PWS report on the man, who had no previous convictions, after hearing the facts of the case brought under Section 2 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

The man now also faces a charge of attempting to interfere with a witness in the case contrary to Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act.

The man did not address the court during the adjournment.

However, on a previous court sitting he became emotional when addressing the latest charge.

"Our kid is suffering and no-one cares," he said.

"Where is the heart? I want my family safe. My family is not safe. My family is suffering.

"My kid is suffering...what do I have to do," he asked.

The man's wife also became extremely distraught during the court hearing.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has already indicated that the witness interference charge can be dealt within before the district court.

Cork District Court was told by a female witness that she was near the Dunnes Stores outlet at the Bishopscourt Shopping Centre in Bishopstown, Cork on July 23 2017.

The woman said her attention was drawn to the high-pitched sound of a child crying.

She saw a man struggling with a child by a shopping trolley.

He was trying to get the child's legs into the shopping trolley seat.

“She was trying to get her legs out. But  he was trying to get them back in,” the woman said.

The woman noticed that the child was still crying and screaming as the man proceeded to do some shopping in the centre.

Later, she came across the pair back in the car park.

She said she saw the man standing by the rear of his car and swinging his hands into the back of the car.

The woman said she heard the child crying and noted that her voice was getting higher and louder in apparent distress.

A second woman at the complex said she also saw the man swinging his hands into the rear of the car - and heard a child crying.

The woman said, as she passed, she heard the man shouting in a loud voice: "Have you enough, now."

The female shopper said she was convinced the man had been slapping the child in the rear of the car.

Both women were upset about the incident.

Neither said they actually witnessed the child being struck but were convinced about what was happening.

One said she didn't know what to do and was worried for the welfare of the child.

The quick-thinking woman discreetly took a photo on her smartphone of the car complete with its registration and contacted Togher Garda Station.

Garda Brian O'Connell told Judge Kelleher he identified the vehicle and its owner from the photograph.

Garda O'Connell went to the car owner's address and brought the witness testimony to his attention.

The car owner said he couldn't recall if he had been in that shopping centre three days earlier.

However, he vehemently rejected any suggestion of having struck or hurt his daughter.

CCTV footage obtained from the shopping centre did not show the man striking his child.

The man offered sworn evidence in which he denied ever hitting or slapping his daughter.

The man, who is not Irish and has English as a second language, said his family prefer to discipline children by using the removal of toys or treats in cases of misbehaviour.

He told the court he believed the two women exaggerated or misunderstood what they had seen.

“I have never resorted to violence, I have never hit my child and I never will,” he insisted.

A doctor's report provided by the man and his family indicated the child was uninjured when examined days after the alleged Bishopstown incident.

Judge Kelleher said he had no doubt from the man's evidence that he was a good parent.

He described it as a very sad case but said the evidence of the two independent witnesses was both compelling and credible.

The case has since been referred to Tusla, the child protection agency.

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