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Father escapes jail after shaking gave girl brain damage

A MAN who shook his baby daughter so violently that he caused her brain damage and cracked her ribs has walked free from court.

Shaun McCahill (21) admitted three counts of assault causing harm to the baby who was only nine weeks old at the time of the last of three incidents in which he had shaken her.

But Judge John O'Hagan said he would not send McCahill to jail because of the bond he had built with the child since. The judge also allowed the naming of McCahill in court, but banned the identification of the child.

Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court heard that McCahill, of St Mary's Terrace, Ramelton, Co Donegal, had shaken the baby on three occasion, twice with his hands and once when she was in a pram.

Gda Joe McManus said officers launched an investigation on May 19, 2011, when the child was rushed to Letterkenny General Hospital after suffering convulsions while being minded by McCahill.

The child was later transferred to Temple Street Children's Hospital where older injuries were detected.

Gda McManus said the father later admitted that he shook the baby on three separate occasions because he could not get her to stop crying.

The court heard McCahill now rarely goes out, and he had tried to take his own life. It also heard how the child's parents had been in a relationship since they were 15, but they had split up before the injuries were caused to the child.

It further heard that despite splitting from the child's mother, McCahill still had a very active part in his daughter's upbringing.

Judge John O'Hagan asked the mother if she thought her former boyfriend meant to hurt their daughter.


The woman replied that she "honestly couldn't say".

She also told the judge that she did not know if McCahill could be left alone with her daughter, but said he did now have supervised access when the little girl stayed with his parents at weekends.

There was a hope that the child would recover from the brain injury in time. McCahill and the baby's mother wept on occasion during the hearing.

McCahill's barrister, Charlotte Simpson, said the accused felt sick and ashamed of what he had done.

She added that the little girl's father was still "her hero", and she ran to him every weekend and hugged him.

Judge O'Hagan said there was "no way" he was imposing a custodial sentence.

He referred to the lack of intent, probation reports which said McCahill is unlikely to offend again and also his good relationship with his little girl.

"This is a very emotional case. It's a tragic case of a dad who lost it," said the judge.

He sentenced McCahill to one year in prison on each charge to run concurrently, but ordered it to be replaced by 150 hours of community service.