By Isabel Hayes
An “irascible” and “cross” father who regularly beat his young children with household implements, including a belt and a ladle, has been given a two-year suspended sentence.
The 54-year-old Nigerian man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his children, pleaded guilty to five counts of child cruelty at an address in Dublin between October 2011 and April 2014, when they were aged around eight and nine.
He beat the children between 50 and 100 times during that period while verbally abusing them, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.
His wife, who also beat the children, was also given a suspended two-year jail term in March.
The abuse came to light when one of the children confided in his teacher about his unhappiness at his home situation, the court heard.
Handing down sentence, Judge Martin Nolan said he had formed the impression the accused was “a stubborn, irascible man” and “a cross man”.
“He doesn't have a temperament that would lead me to conclude he's a patient man,” he said.
The judge noted the man “thought he was dealing with his children properly by chastising them physically when they did wrong in his eyes”.
He accepted defence submissions that this was more culturally acceptable in Nigeria and he noted that until relatively recently, “slapping was a common practice in this country”.
“Nonetheless, what he did was wrong,” he said. “He beat his children on a considerable number of occasions. It's seems undoubtedly that this was cruelty.”
He took into account several mitigating factors when imposing the suspended sentence, including the sentence meted out to the children's mother, the man's lack of criminal convictions and his remorse.
The judge ordered the man to comply with all social services orders regarding the welfare of his children. They now live with his wife, from whom he is separated, the court heard.
Detective Garda Donal O'Connell told Patrick Gageby SC, prosecuting, that after the child confided in his teacher about the abuse at home, social services became involved. The children were taken into foster care for a number of years, returning to their mother in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
The court heard the man beat the children between 50 and 100 times during the period in question using various household implements, including a belt, a ladle and a spoon.
He pleaded guilty at a late stage, after a trial date was set. At one point he attempted to resile from his guilty plea but this application was refused by the court. He has no previous convictions.
The court heard the children, who are now teenagers, did not wish to make victim impact statements. Their mother's sentence hearing was told that she had made great efforts to educate herself, had engaged with a migrant parenting service and changed her parenting style.
Paul Greene SC, defending, said his client's plea had saved his children the ordeal of being cross-examined at trial.
He said the man was of a previous good character and was acting under a “cultural misapprehension” when dealing with his children. He has lived in Ireland since the early 2000s.
“His culpability is not minimised, but reduced,” Mr Greene said.
He urged the judge to be as lenient as possible.
Judge Nolan noted that he was obliged to hand down a similar sentence to the man's co-accused, unless he felt the other sentencing judge had been “completely wrong”. In this case, he accepted that the two-year suspended sentence was adequate.
He paid tribute to the teacher who first shed light on the case, saying: “Society should be grateful to the teacher who dealt with the problem in a very intelligent way and procured the confidence of the child.”