Father convicted for infant assault

A father who was stressed due to financial pressure seriously assaulted his infant son by shaking him and yesterday he got a five-year suspended jail sentence.

It was the second case of its kind — infants being seriously injured by being shaken by the father — to appear before Cork Circuit Criminal Court this week. The case earlier in the week was adjourned for sentence.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said in relation to yesterday’s case, “Even men are aware that because of the physiology of a child most of the weight is in his head, and if you shake a child you will do damage. What he did was fundamentally wrong. He knew at all stages he was wrong.

“As in a lot of cases of this kind the child makes progress... The latest medical report is that the child is doing quite well.”

The judge said he was influenced in his sentencing of the father by the evidence of the mother to the effect that jailing him would further damage the child and herself as they were financially dependent on him. Defence barrister Seamus Roche said the defendant was back living with the family following a period of supervision by the HSE.

Judge Ó Donnabháin said the intervention of the HSE and Garda had been very positive in the case.

The judge was particularly concerned earlier this year that in the middle of all the favourable medical reports on how well the child was doing there were references to the risk of epilepsy and learning difficulties in future life.

The boy’s mother said on that occasion that no one would be able to give a definitive picture of the future. “All they can do is (check his development) every six months and, so far, he is age-appropriate.”

The father pleaded guilty to two counts of assault, one of causing harm and the other of causing serious harm to the little boy.

Defence barrister Mr Roche said the father had been under financial pressure as a result of the downturn of the economy.

Mr Roche said, “It is an extraordinarily difficult case. It is inexcusable on one level and should never happen. There are certain realities about how it came to happen, there was financial pressure and he was suffering from sleep deprivation. It does not excuse what happened, but it might explain why he snapped.”

Sgt James O’Donohue said the ambulance was called to the house on November 26, 2011, at 7.20 in the morning. The ambulance crew was told that a two-month old baby was having difficulty breathing.

Staff at the hospital were concerned that it might have been a case of what is called baby shaking syndrome and the parents were spoken to in relation to the matter, but no admissions were made. Two days later the child was transferred to Temple Street children’s hospital. While en route, the defendant made admissions to his wife saying not that he had thrown the baby, but had “roughly placed the baby into the baby bouncer”. His wife notified the consultant.

Later when interviewed, the child’s father admitted that during a feeding of the baby in the middle of the night he became frustrated with his colicky eight-week old baby and shook him until he became limp and an ambulance had to be called.

The defendant admitted that on a second incident, again when the child would not settle at night, he held the baby firmly around the chest until the baby became limp. The defendant then called his wife and the ambulance was called.


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