Sentencing for assault of baby delayed

Sentencing of a father who seriously assaulted his infant son was put back again yesterday for a medical report addressing the prognosis for the child’s development.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin told Cork Circuit Criminal Court that he realised the adjournment of sentencing would be stressful for the family.

He added: “I really do need to know what the future is for the child. I would prefer to do this properly than rush it. I would prefer to know the future picture.”

The judge said he was particularly concerned 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.

The boy’s mother said yesterday that nobody 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 judge put sentencing back until July with the father of the child, who is now two and a half years old, on continuing bail.

Following his plea of guilty, the facts of the case were outlined in court earlier in the week where the father pleaded guilty to two counts of assault, one of causing harm and the other of causing serious harm to the boy.

Seamus Roche, defending, 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.”

Garda James O’Donoghue said an ambulance was called to the house at 7.20am on November 26, 2011. The crew was told that a two-month-old baby was having difficulty breathing.

Hospital staff were concerned it might have been a case of ‘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 being 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.

When interviewed later, the child’s father admitted that, while feeding the baby in the middle of the night, he became frustrated with his colicky baby and shook him until he became limp.

The defendant admitted that, in 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.

Mr Roche said the defendant and his wife had separated for a period but were back together again and doing well since what he described as that dark period in their lives.


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