Man given suspended sentence for assaults on infant son

Hospital staff were concerned that the infant showed signs of shaken baby syndrome

Judge Sean O Donnabhain imposed a five year prison sentence but suspended it after hearing from the man’s wife that she didn’t want him jailed.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain imposed a five year prison sentence but suspended it after hearing from the man’s wife that she didn’t want him jailed.

Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 12:12

A 35-year-old man who seriously assaulted his infant son by shaking him violently when he wouldn’t stop crying has been given a five year suspended jail sentence for the offence.

The man, who can’t be named for legal reasons, was under severe financial pressure at the time and lost his temper on two separate occasions with the baby at the family home in Co Cork.

The father had pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court earlier this year to two counts of assault, one of causing harm and one of causing serious harm to the little boy in November 2011.

Yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Sean O Donnabhain imposed a five year prison sentence but suspended it after hearing from the man’s wife that she didn’t want him jailed.

The woman had explained to Judge O Donnabhain at the previous hearing that jailing the man would damage her and the child as they were financially dependent on him.

Judge O Donnabhain noted that the child was injured by the man shaking the two month old infant, thereby causing injury to his head which required hospitalisation.

“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.The child was a source of aggravation to him and the child suffered very serious injuries. As in a lot of cases of this kind the child makes progress.

“It is the mother monitoring, constantly worrying, constantly marking out the developmental milestones. The mother will have to monitor and supervise,” he noted.

Judge O Donnabhain said that the latest medical report was that the child was doing well after earlier medical reports had highlighted the risk of epilepsy and learning difficulties.

Defence barrister Seamus Roche BL said the defendant was back living with the family following a period of supervision by the HSE after the assaults in late 2011.

Mr Roche said the father had been under financial pressure as a result of the downturn of the economy and had snapped but that the assaults were reckless rather than intentional

“It is an extraordinarily difficult case. It is inexcusable on one level and should never happen but there are certain realities about how it came to happen,” he said.

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’Donoghue had told the earlier hearing that the ambulance was called to the family home around 7.20am on the morning of November 26th 2011.

The ambulance crew was told that a two-month old baby was having difficulty breathing and they brought the infant to Cork University Hospital for treatment..

Staff at CUH were concerned that it might have been a case of shaken baby 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 and while en route, the man told his wife that he had rougly placed the baby in the baby bouncer.

Later when interviewed by gardai, the man admitted that during a feeding of the baby in the middle of the night he became frustrated with his colicky eight-week old baby.

He admitted that he had shaken the baby until the infant became limp and an ambulance had to be called to rush the child to hospital, the court was told.

The defendant admitted that on the second occasion 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 had been doing well since what he described as “that dark period in their lives”.