A 48-year-old man on trial for putting his ex-partner in fear put his phone video up to his four-year-old child’s face to record the boy being asked if wanted to be with his mother or father.
During the in-camera trial for breach of a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act, Judge Colm Roberts accused the defendant of gaslighting in relation to his ex-partner.
The woman said their child was sick that morning and that an issue arose about minding him.
The defendant testified: “I sleep in a different bedroom. I held my phone. She requested me to stay [to mind the child because she was working]. I refused gently. I took out my phone because I knew I was in trouble with her.
“My child was watching TV. The whole purpose was to make sure he wanted to see me or not. I asked him would he like to stay with daddy or not. He is not able to make an independent decision because she [ex-partner] is very coercive.”
Judge Roberts intervened and said loudly and clearly: “He is not able to make an independent decision because he is four years of age. What age are you?” He replied: “I am 45.”
The judge said there was a right and a wrong way to do things and that the defendant’s approach to the child was the wrong way.
The defendant, who denied breaching a protection order and putting his partner in fear, said of his child: “Unfortunately, he slapped me on the face. I don’t know why this happened.”
Judge Roberts explained it for the defendant: “Because he did not like it. A four-year-old should not have to make that choice. You are lucky this case is not about parenting. You would not score highly.
“Every time you say something you are making matters worse. You are following [ex-partner]. You are recording. You are demanding.”
The defendant said: “I am not demanding. She is recording me for two years. I have to defend myself somehow. She is on medication.”
Judge Roberts said: “Forget about the medication — we are not going to do any gaslighting here. Did you at any stage suggest she would be put in a mental hospital?” He replied: “Yes”
The judge asked if this was said in front of the four-year-old and if the boy was told he would be put in care. The defendant replied he did not know if it was said in front of the child.
“Why don’t you show me your recording?” the judge asked.
Defence solicitor Shane Collins-Daly said he did not think showing the video recording would be of assistance to the defendant.
When the defendant said he also looked after the child, the judge said: “You don’t get any prizes for that.”
The judge said the defendant was doing an excellent job for the prosecution in making the case against himself.
Judge Roberts said he found the facts proved and placed the defendant on a probation bond for two years.
“He needs serious help to understand what it is to be a parent and an adult… This is a serious warning.”
Turning to the complainant, Judge Roberts said to her: “Thank you for coming to court. I totally believe you.”
To the defence solicitor the judge said: “You could have done nothing, Mr Collins-Daly, your client made the case for the State.”