Thursday 23 November 2017

Sex offender jailed for punching ex-girlfriend while she was in bed with their baby

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Stock Picture

Fiona Ferguson

A Donegal sex offender who punched his former girlfriend as their six month old baby lay beside her on a bed has been jailed for one year.

Martin O'Hara (31), who has a previous conviction for rape, “lashed out” at the woman a second time after he left the house with their baby without her agreement following an argument.

O'Hara of St Benildus Avenue, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting the woman causing her harm in Tallaght on July 28, 2016.

Judge Karen O'Connor said it had been “violent and aggressive behaviour” in the presence of a young baby and had no doubt been terrifying for the woman. She noted his remorse and his recent efforts at rehabilitation and counselling.

She said the physical effects of the assault had been at the lower end of the scale but noted the woman also suffered psychological effects. Judge O'Connor imposed a 12 month prison term.

Garda Stephen Neilan told Fiona Murphy BL, prosecuting, that O'Hara and his former partner had at that time been in a relationship for about 18 months and had a child together.

He said they were in Dublin visiting O'Hara's sister and his partner woke him up that morning to look after the baby as it was his turn. The woman said he was in a bad mood and he asked her to make a phone call. She asked if he could do it so that she could have a rest.

She said O'Hara walked over and punched her once as the baby lay beside her.

O'Hara went then downstairs and made the baby's bottle but an argument ensued. The woman told him she would ring the gardai if he took the baby out. O'Hara left with the baby in a buggy and was followed by his partner and sister.

He got his sister in a headlock and punched her as she tried to take the baby back and then struck his partner on the nose as she tried to take the buggy. She fell to the ground dazed.

Garda were alerted and were initially concerned for the child but O'Hara returned the child without incident after he was spotted walking near Luas tracks. The baby was calm and uninjured.

O'Hara was arrested and admitted “lashing out” at the women. Garda asked him what he had been planning to do and he replied that he was not sure.

Gda Neilan said the pair remained in a relationship for a time but it later broke down.

The woman said she had been scared because her child was taken without her consent and she now attends a domestic violence counselling service.

Gda Neilan said O'Hara has 15 previous convictions which include less serious assaults, burglary and one conviction for rape.

Kitty Perle BL, defending, said things went “off the rails” for O'Hara when he was 15 years old and his father died. He began abusing drugs and getting into trouble. She said he had severe difficulties with anger in his background.

She said the relationship with his former partner had been a “tumultuous” one and there was now no contact between them. She said he wished to offer an apology to the woman.

Ms Perle said he had taken steps towards rehabilitation for the first time in his life and had attended counselling. She asked the court to take into account his guilty plea and remorse.

She said it was a “despicable offence” but asked Judge O'Connor to be as lenient as possible in the circumstances.

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