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Friday 22 March 2019

Judge delays sentencing of dad who slapped three-year-old until victim impact statement heard

The pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (stock photo)
The pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (stock photo)

Ralph Riegel

A judge said he wants to hear a victim impact statement before he sentences a man who slapped his three-year-old daughter in a supermarket carpark.

The 46-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, last week had a charge of attempted witness interference against him dropped.

Judge Olann Kelleher said he now wants to finalise sentencing in the matter after being told that while a victim impact statement (VIS) was submitted to Gardaí on Thursday evening, the statement was not yet available to the court.

"The sooner this is dealt with the better," Judge Kelleher said. "It (the VIS) will have to be read that day because this is now going on a while."

The man was remanded on bail to appear before Cork District Court on March 21 when sentence will be dealt with.

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

Judge 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 previously told by Sergeant Anne Marie Twomey that the DPP directed an alleged witness interference charge, first brought on January 25 last, be withdrawn against the man.

Defence solicitor Eddie 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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