A 36-year-old man who used “an excess of corporal punishment” on two of his children, dragging them by the hair and slapping them, is to plead guilty to a number of charges of child cruelty at district court level in the southwest.
The prosecution was brought under the Children’s Act and the two injured parties are now in their teens.
The man appeared before a court earlier this year in Co Kerry on nine charges involving the boy and the girl and the judge had deferred the matter to study garda files on the matter, saying the charges were serious.
The DPP had consented to the matter being dealt with in the district court but only if the man pleaded guilty to the charges, that court was told.
Judge James O’Connor has now told a court he was accepting jurisdiction.
However, he ordered the court not be identified and only as taking place in Co Kerry.
One of the children is the man’s natural child and “the punching, slapping, choking” that make up the ill-treatment allegations against both the boy and the girl took place between 2006 and 2013, the court has heard.
The case is rare in the south-west and the publicity ban has been put in place for the protection of the children, Judge O’Connor said.
Solicitor Padraig O’Connell told the most recent sitting what was involved was “an excess of corporal punishment” and Judge O’Connor agreed, but added that there was “absolutely no connotation” of sexual interference.
Therefore, he would accept jurisdiction on the plea. Mr O’Connell said there would be a plea to all charges. He has told the court that while one of the injured parties is the man’s natural child, he was in loco parentis for the other. There are other children in the family but these were not subjected to punishment.
“My client regrets and apologises for what he has done. That apology was proffered to gardaí at an early stage,” the solicitor said.
The man stood in court alongside his solicitor.
The investigating garda has told the court that the man had made no reply to each of the nine charges put to him of wilfully assaulting the children, a boy, and a girl, in a manner likely to cause suffering.
The ill-treatment of the girl began in 2007, when she was aged eight, and continued over a six- to seven-year period, he said.
The ill-treatment of the boy began when he was five.
The garda said that the cruelty was “physical” and it involved “choking, punching, slapping”.
“The kids were dragged by the hair and by the arm,” the garda said.
All of the couple’s children are now with their mother and there were access arrangements but this was always supervised and consisted of visits for a number of hours two Sundays per month, Mr O’Connell said.
The man is on bail and the bail conditions, which are being met, also include “no unsupervised communication” with the two injured parties.
A person convicted in the district court can face up to 12 months in prison or a fine of almost €1,800
In the circuit court, the jail term can be up to seven years and the fine €12,000.
The matter is to come before a court again in three months.
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