herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Dad gets 12 years for blinding infant son

RAGE: Judge voices his 'serious disgust' over 11-week-old's horrific brain damage

A FATHER who violently shook his 11-week-old son leaving him permanently blind and brain damaged has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The 25-year-old drug addict, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and who has an address in Meath, initially told gardai the child had fallen off some cushions he had put on the table but later admitted he had shaken and slapped him because of a "build-up of anger".

Calling it one of the most tragic cases he has come across, Judge Patrick McCartan said he wanted to impose a lengthy sentence to reflect the court's "serious disgust".

He said it was difficult to comprehend the suffering the child will have to endure as it grows up and that it was easier to appreciate the suffering that the child's mother and grandmother are now enduring.

The child's 20-year-old mother and grandmother have had to quit their jobs to become full-time carers following the assault.

"An innocent child has had its life utterly destroyed," Judge McCartan said. "Even still it is not clear what actually happened. The accused gave the gardai three different versions of events. What is clear is that at the end of what did occur the child was left with the most appalling injuries."

He also rejected the idea that the attack was rooted in drug abuse, noting that the man was not a intravenous heroin user and had not smoked the drug in several days.

"The impact is immense and lifelong. (The child) was born bright, happy and vibrant. For his mother to now see him in this condition is very difficult," Judge McCartan said.

Taking into account the father's remorse and guilty plea he adjourned the final three years on condition he undergoes probation supervision for two years on his release.

The father pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to the baby on February 7, 2009 at their Dublin home.

Det Garda Aidan McGuire told Martina Baxter, prosecuting, that the child's mother had left him with the father that afternoon. When she returned home at 2.30pm she found the child on the couch -- bruised, limp and gasping for air.





Bleeding

The father claimed he was had fallen and hit his head on the coffee table. The baby was rushed to Temple Street Children's Hospital.

The infant had trouble breathing and had reduced consciousness. Evidence of old and new bleeding was found in the retinas and it became clear the child had a brain injury.

He spent a week in intensive care and five weeks in hospital in total.

He had seizures and it was discovered that he had "significant permanent brain abnormalities" consistent with non-accidental shaking. A report read by the court stated the child had "significantly impaired visual abilities" and will have cognitive delays which will lead to learning difficulties in later life. He is eight to nine months behind the expected development of an infant and also has behavioural problems resulting in screaming fits.

The father was arrested and interviewed and initially claimed the child had fallen and hit his head off the table. He then admitted shaking the baby but denied slapping him. Eventually he accepted he slapped him but insisted he fell on the coffee table and was not thrown.

He said the child had been crying for about 20 minutes while he was having a phone conversation with his cousin about his drug addiction.

He said the conversation left him upset when he hung up the phone to tend to the child. He said he hit the baby because of "a build-up of anger."

hnews@herald.ie

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