Dad accused of pulling daughter from car loses bid to return home
A judge has rejected an application to permit a Magherafelt man accused of dragging his terrified 12-year-old daughter from a car where she had sought safety from his anger, to return to the family home.
In a fraught bail variation hearing, a defence solicitor claimed with social services involvement there was "no reason why as a father he should be excluded from the family home", despite the victim and a witness, who is also his daughter, residing there.
The accused - who is in his thirties and cannot be named at this stage to protect the child's identity - is alleged to have assaulted her on November 1, as well as threatened to smash the windows of the car in which she and her 16-year-old sister were seated, after they fled the family home and were being tended to by a relative.
In his bail terms, the accused is banned from any contact with the victim or witnesses and is not to reside in the family home.
A defence solicitor told Magherafelt Magistrates Court yesterday that his client had met social services who, it was claimed, did not object to him returning to the family home, where the victim and a witness reside.
But District Judge Una Mullen said: "I am reluctant to remove the residence condition, given the existing criminal charges."
The defence said social services were responsible for the child's safety and said she has made a statement of withdrawal.
But a prosecution lawyer said the case had been reviewed and the charges were proceeding. It was also noted that the elder daughter has not withdrawn her statement.
The prosecution said the bail variation was opposed and a police officer said: "Both girls were very fearful and upset when police arrived at the scene that day. Police are concerned witnesses will be interfered with, and this is also based on the behaviour of (the defendant) on the day of the incident."
The defence cross-examined the officer, asking her to confirm if the matter was "essentially a domestic dispute".
The officer stated it had not started as such, and said the elder child received a phone call from her father to say he had put a car through the MoT for her in preparation for when she would be learning to drive. She "did not react as he believed she should" and the girl was terrified.
"Such was the fear, the elder daughter felt it necessary to leave her home, and take her younger sister with her," said the officer. The girls helped each other to pack a bag and made their way to a relative's home.
This relative was very concerned for the girls and decided the matter needed to be reported to authorities, including social services.
While they were in the relative's car waiting to move off, their father arrived in a furious state, the court heard.
It was said he told the girls to get out and when they refused, he dragged the younger one out and threatened to smash the windows to remove her sister.
The defence pressed the officer on whether she had been aware of a meeting with social services.
The officer confirmed that she had spoken to social services earlier, who had advised that the issue of bail variation "was entirely a matter for the court".
The meeting was to put arrangements in place in the event bail was amended.
The defence asked the officer: "Are you now satisfied measures are in place if the court allows my client to return home?"
But the officer replied, "No. Police concerns remain in respect of risk of witness interference and reoffending."
Throwing out the application, Judge Mullen said: "I cannot accede to this application.
"This is a young child and the withdrawal statement was on the cusp of Christmas.
"I am not prepared to vary bail."
She concluded: "I appreciate social services may have views but this is a criminal matter."
The defence requested the case be fixed for a contest as soon as possible.