Thursday, 16 December 2010

SBS: Ireland: Man jailed for shaking baby son

A Mauritian national who shook his eight-week-old son causing him serious lifelong injuries has been given a five-year sentence with the final two suspended on condition he return to his home country.
The boy, now one-year-old, has been diagnosed with “shaken baby syndrome” resulting in difficulties with movement, feeding, and speech.
He has developed cerebral palsy as well as epilepsy and is on anti-convulsive medication. His condition is permanent and he is now cared for by foster parents.
The man told gardaí he had grabbed the crying baby by his clothing when he would not go asleep and shook him for “five seconds at the most”. He said he did not intend to hurt his son.
The man, who can not be named to protect the identity of the child, pleaded guilty to assaulting his son causing him harm at the family home on a date between March 24 and April 8, 2009. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Patrick McCartan said that taking into account the “appalling injuries” of the child it was a “remarkable gesture of leniency” that the Director of Public Prosecutions had accepted a guilty plea in this case to assault causing harm rather then the original charge of assault causing serious harm.
“It is difficult to understand the reasons of the director but no doubt there are good reasons,” he said.
He said the five-year maximum sentence applicable to assault causing harm was wholly inadequate in this case having regard to the consequences for the child.
Judge McCartan imposed a five-year sentence but suspended the final two years for a period of 10 years on condition the man return to Mauritius on his release.
Detective Garda Chris Cahill told Mr Shane Costelloe BL, prosecuting, that gardaí were alerted on April 9, 2009 that a child had been admitted to Temple Street Hospital with injuries that appeared to be non-accidental.
Gardaí attended at the hospital, observed bruising on the child’s face and spoke to the mother, who at that time was in a relationship with the accused. She said she had left the child in the care of his father on the night of April 7 and the next morning noticed a bruise on his face.
The following night she again left the child in the care of the accused and when she came back noticed that the bruise was larger. She said she confronted her partner and he denied knowing anything about it.
She brought the child to her GP on April 9 and after examination the doctor told her to go immediately to the hospital.
Det Gda Cahill said when he went to the couple’s home he felt the accused man was evasive and behaving suspiciously. He was arrested and brought to a garda station for interview.
The man was interviewed eight times about the child’s injuries and he initially did not offer an explanation except to say the child may have rolled over on his pacifier.
During the seventh and eighth interviews he began to accept he was responsible for the injuries and that the only likely explanation was that the child had been shaken vigorously.
He told gardai that the previous Saturday he had just finished changing the baby and was trying to get him to go asleep. He left the child in his room but he began crying again and he returned to the room.
He said he grabbed the child by his clothes at his chest and shook him “at most for five seconds”. He said he shook the child from side to side but he cried more so he held him and brought him out to the living room.
“I just wanted him to go back to sleep, he had not slept all day,” he told gardaí.
Gardaí asked him if he shook the baby “too hard” and he replied: “For a baby, yeah.”
He told gardai he did not mean to hurt his son.
Det Gda Cahill said the accused had come to Ireland some years previously on a one-year student visa which had expired prior to this incident. He had met and begun a relationship with the child’s mother.
Medical reports indicated the child has been diagnosed with “shaken baby syndrome” a blanket description given to range of symptoms arising in the case of infants who have been shaken to the extent that they receive contusions to the brain.
Given the child’s age it is not yet possible to determine any psychological effects.
The baby boy is now in the care of foster parents and his condition is permanent and will not resolve.
Det Gda Cahill agreed with Ms Caroline Biggs SC, defending, that at the time of the offence both parents were in chronic financial difficulties. He further agreed that the man said in interview he was ashamed of what he had done and exhibited genuine remorse.
Ms Biggs asked the court to take into account her clients guilty plea, his previous good character, good work history as well as his genuine remorse and care for the child.
“I would ask you to accept that whatever this court does, he will have a lifetime of punishment and guilt,” she said.

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