A man has been jailed for eight years for assaulting his then partner's nine-month-old daughter, who was left with a life threatening skull fracture and other injuries.
The man (26), who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, had denied a charge of assault causing serious harm to the baby at a location in Co Cork on December 31st, 2016.
A jury of seven men and five women at Cork Circuit Criminal Court took less than 90 minutes in November to find him guilty. The jury also found him guilty of two counts of neglect of the girl and her older sister on dates between December 20th and December 30th, 2016.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said he agreed with the Director of Public Prosecution’s assessment that the assault was the higher end of the scale.
He said that on the day in question, the accused was left in charge of the baby while her mother took her sister to the playground. The baby was irritable that morning but had settled down before her mother left the house.
When the mother returned, she noticed the baby’s eye was displaced and there was a dent in her skull. She called the emergency services and the infant was taken to a local hospital before being transferred to Cork University Hospital.
A consultant paediatrician and consultant radiologist were both “taken aback” at the extent of the child’s injuries, which the trial heard were caused by either a single blow to the head or else by the child’s head being held against a firm surface before she was struck in the back of the head.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said the injuries were such that doctors believed the force involved was “massive”.
He also noted that the doctors found evidence of the nine-month-old having an older shoulder fracture while her sister (2) had an elbow fracture which were injuries consistent with a pattern of neglect.
He recalled the accused saying that the child’s injuries had nothing to do with him and that he had found her with them when he went upstairs to her cot.
The judge said the man had shown little insight or remorse for his actions in relation to the childrenand that it was only at the sentencing hearing that his barrister Brendan Kelly BL said his client accepted he had neglected the children.
The court heard the man came from a respectable family but had two previous convictions for assaults causing harm on two adult men in Cork city.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said the man was guilty of a huge breach of trust in that he was left to look after a baby who ended up being assaulted by a grown adult. He said the aggravating factors in the assault included the level of force used and the nature of the injuries sustained by the child who ran “a real risk of death” as a result of what happened.
A victim impact statement prepared by a social worker noted that thechild had made a good recovery but suffered from headaches and an aversion to bright lights. However, it was unclear what impact the assault would have on the child’s psychological development. The older girl had developed what the court heard described as “the frozen watchfulness of a neglected child”.
The judge said the the appropriate headline sentence was 10 years but he suspended the last two years. He also imposed concurrent two year sentences for the neglect charges to run consecutive to the assault sentence, but he suspended both leaving the man with a total sentence of 12 years with the final four years suspended.
Judge O Donnabhain noted the children’s mother had pleaded guilty to two counts of neglect in relation to her two children and received a suspended sentence which he believed was the correct penalty.