Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Thug found guilty of fracturing his baby's skull... but we can't name him

A father-of-three who brutally attacked his infant daughter, leaving her with a fractured skull, is to have his identity kept a secret from the public following a court order.

The 25-year-old west Belfast man was found guilty on Wednesday of battering his seven-month-old daughter, causing her extensive face and head injuries.

So severe were the baby girl’s injuries that medics compared them to wounds suffered in a road traffic accident or from falling out of a first floor window.

But the public is not permitted to know who the violent offender is after a court imposed an order banning the publication of any information that could lead to his victim’s identification.

As a jury delivered its verdict against the man yesterday, the baby’s mother wept with relief in the public gallery.

The child beater simply nodded his head when the foreman of the jury told the court that jurors had reached a majority verdict and found him guilty of causing the baby grievous bodily harm with intent.

The man had been alone with the baby for 20 minutes on November 3, 2010 when he launched the vicious attack.

The child suffered a skull fracture as well as extensive bruising all over her face and the top of her head.

Her mother, who is now estranged from the man, had previously told the court that she had left the child alone with her former partner for 20 minutes and when she arrived back she found her daughter covered in bruises.

She said she had a “freak attack” and rushed the child to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast, and told doctors to get the police.

After he was arrested the child’s father told police that when he was alone with his daughter the only time she was hurt was when he accidentally hit her head off the staircase wall as he carried her up to bed for a nap, and also when he accidentally dropped her bottle of milk which hit her in the face as he bent over to put her to bed.

However, after almost four hours of deliberations over two days the jury yesterday found this excuse implausible.

The man was remanded in custody and led handcuffed from the dock without looking towards his young victim’s family.

He is to be sentenced next month following the production of psychiatric and probation reports.

How the law on anonymity works

The law in Northern Ireland grants anonymity to children (up to age 14) and young persons (14-17 years old) involved in criminal proceedings.

The defendant in the present case cannot be identified because, given his familial relation to his victim, to do so would identify his baby daughter.

The order banning the identification of the defendant and the injured party in this case was made almost a year ago.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall made the ruling on November 3, 2011, citing the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Justice (Children) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 states, at Section 22 (1): “Where a child is concerned in any criminal proceedings ... the court may direct that (a) no report shall be published which (in any way reveals the identity of the child) ...”

Any newspaper or broadcaster contravening the act is liable to a fine not exceeding Level 5 on the scale (currently £5,000).

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