Tuesday 15 October 2019

Dad who slapped daughter in car park has witness interference charge dropped by DPP

The defendant appeared before Cork District Court on a charge of assaulting his daughter
The defendant appeared before Cork District Court on a charge of assaulting his daughter

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 had a charge of attempted witness interference against him dropped.

The 46 year old - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - was told the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has now withdrawn the charge which was only levelled on January 25.

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

Judge Olann Kelleher said that, while he found the facts proven against the man in respect of the assault matter, he wanted to consider alternatives to recording a conviction.

He said he also wanted to consider a Probation and Welfare Service (PWS) report on the man, who had no previous convictions, after previously hearing the facts of the case brought under Section 2 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

Judge Kelleher was told by Sergeant Anne Marie Twomey that the DPP directed the alleged witness interference charge be withdrawn.

Sgt Twomey asked for sentencing on the assault matter be adjourned to determine if a victim impact statement might be offered.

Eddie Burke, defence solicitor, confirmed to the court that no such victim impact statement would be offered.

However, Judge Kelleher adjourned sentencing for one week to determine if such a statement might be involved.

He remanded the defendant on continuing bail to appear again before Cork District Court on March 15.

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

The defendant, who is not Irish, did not address the court during the adjournment.

However, on a previous court sitting he became very emotional.

"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 previous court hearing.

Judge Kelleher said that while he found the facts proven in respect of the assault matter, he wanted to consider alternatives to recording a conviction.

A female witness told the court 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 young 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 very upset about the incident.

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

One said she 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 said his family prefer to discipline their 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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