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Saturday 21 July 2018

'I think he is the devil', girl tells court as father is given suspended sentence for punching her in the face

Dublin District Court
Dublin District Court

Tom Tuite

A  FATHER, who suddenly lashed out “like a boxer” when he punched his eight-year-old daughter in the face, has been given a six-month suspended sentence.

“I think he is the devil and a really, really mean person, what he did to me and my brother and mum is disgusting. I don’t want to be connected with him,” the girl said in a victim impact statement.

The now 12-year-old added that she still suffered nightmares and remained scared of him. She also said she no longer saw him as her father or wanted him in her life.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identify of the girl, denied assault causing harm to her at their home in Dublin on a date in 2013. The attack happened after she was being scolded for going to visit neighbours without telling her family.

Her father was convicted after he went on trial before Judge Anthony Halpin at Dublin District Court. The case had been adjourned for a probation report on him to be completed and a victim impact statement from his daughter to be furnished to the court.

The man, who is in his forties, did not address the court during his sentence hearing in which his barrister submitted that he has expressed genuine remorse and still financially supports the girl who now lives with her step-mother.

He had worked all his life and the Probation Service “placed him at the lower end of low risk of re-offending”, defence counsel Aoife McNickle said in pleas for leniency. She said  he disagreed that he had struck his daughter with a closed fist but accepted the decision of the court and had completed an 11-week counselling programme to deal with conflict and communicating with others.

References were handed in to court.

However, Judge Anthony Halpin said the man “minimises his actions”.

He said the girl had been the subject of a vicious assault by her father and certainly the reason that led to the assault itself would have been innocuous by many people’s standards. The man’s reaction was totally disproportionate and he did not believe he was remorseful, Judge Halpin said.

By contesting the case he had been saying the young child was lying and that was contrary to his expression of remorse, the judge said.

However, he noted the man had no previous convictions in relation to such assaults and he had been obliged to seek the probation report but he said the father had not learned a lesson.

He imposed a six-month sentence but suspended it condition he keeps the peace and does not offend over the next two years.

The trial had heard the girl and an older sibling moved in with their father and his partner a few years before the assault. However, the girl was closer to his partner whom she began to look on as her mother while she did not bond much with or talk to her father.

The girl gave a statement last year to a garda with special training to interview children.

Giving evidence via video-link, the girl had told the court that on the day of the attack her older brother had been looking after her while her stepmother and father had been at work.

The girl said she went to her friend’s house nearby and her brother came to collect her. Her stepmother had come home and was cooking dinner.

The woman was upset the girl was out so late. The child told the court she went out again but didn’t ask for permission. It was about 8pm or 9pm then. She recalled her brother collecting her a second time.

Her father was called and came home.

They were standing in a hallway and her stepmother was telling her how she was very disappointed in her. She said her father then punched her in the nose and she was bleeding a lot. She remembered hitting her head against a door and her father stormed out.

She agreed the woman has been like a mother to her but she would not have had much bonding time with her father.

After she was hit, her stepmother brought her upstairs and looked after her. “I was crying a lot, I’d got a huge fright, banged my head of the door, I couldn’t walk up the stairs properly,” she said.

She did not need to go to the doctor because her nose was not broken. In cross-examination counsel for the defence asked if it was possible she was mixing up what happened. The girl had replied, “I remember because I got punched in the face, I do remember”.

Her brother, who is in his late teens, told the trial, “Out of nowhere, I saw him go full fisted and hit her in the face,” adding that before the blow the man did not look angry or show any facial reaction.

He and his sister moved in with the stepmother when she broke up with their father.

The stepmother told the trial that as she was giving out to the girl for going back out, her former partner began snorting and exhaling and suddenly punched or slapped the child. She said the girl had a bleeding nostril and she grabbed and hugged the child before bringing her upstairs. She said she checked her throughout the night to make sure she was breathing okay. “I was horrified, nothing was the same after,” the woman had said.

She said her former partner did not say anything and that “it felt like it was in a boxing ring, he positioned himself and bang, and he looked like he was in danger, like he was in a fight”.

The court heard the woman received a text message from him later in which he said he regretted what he had done.

The father has no prior criminal convictions and presently has no access to the children, the court was told.

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