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Belfast mum who fractured baby's ribs as he cried in her arms is jailed

By Michael Donnelly

Published 09/09/2016

'While the boy's mother pleaded guilty, she was still considered as being at a high risk of re-offending'
'While the boy's mother pleaded guilty, she was still considered as being at a high risk of re-offending'

A mother who broke three of her baby son's ribs has been sentenced to 15 months - half of them behind bars.

The 35-year-old south Belfast woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted causing grievous bodily harm to her four-week old baby in August 2014. The child has since been taken into care.

Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the woman that in deciding an appropriate sentence, he would consider the aggravating feature in the case - the age of her vulnerable young child.

He added she had breached her position of trust and that the force needed to cause the injures was considerable.

The judge also explained that because the youngster had been taken into care, he had lost the chance of a normal upbringing.

While the boy's mother pleaded guilty, she was still considered as being at a high risk of re-offending.

However, it was found she did not pose a danger to the public, and the court was told that if she had any more children it was likely that they would be taken away from her.

The woman will serve seven-and-a-half months in custody, followed by the same period on supervised parole.

At a previous court hearing, prosecutor Simon Jenkins said police were called to the mother's house by social services on August 7, 2014, after she alerted the authorities to marks on her son's body. She told officials she was concerned she may have caused the marks and hurt her son through holding him in a particular way when he was crying the day before.

The boy was brought to hospital, where he was examined by a consultant paediatrician who found extensive bruising on the child's abdomen. The results of a subsequent X-ray also showed that the infant had three fractured ribs.

Belfast Crown Court was told the injuries were "non-accidental", and Mr Jenkins said the "level of force required to fracture the ribs of a four-week old baby is considerable".

When the child's mother was interviewed by police, she said her son had been crying and she had tried to comfort him.

She also told police she waited until the following day to alert the authorities because she knew her baby would be taken from her and she could not face the prospect of losing him.

Defence barrister Arthur Harvey QC said that while his client never denied she was responsible, she never intended to inflict hurt her baby son.

Revealing that the injuries were sustained while the baby was crying, Mr Harvey branded the incident a "one-off" and said that prior to this the mother and her son had enjoyed a "strong" relationship.

The barrister told the court there were no signs of neglect, adding: "Her remorse is enormous and continuing. She will have to live with this for the rest of her life. That child will not be granted back to her custody."

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