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Derry man who punched baby in the face released on bail

By George Jackson

A 26-year-old man, who was remanded in custody at the Magistrate's Court in Derry last week after he admitted punching an eleven-month-old baby in the face during a fight with his brother, has been released on bail from the same court.

Aaron O'Kane from Carnhill Eastate in Londonderry pleaded guilty to punching the baby and his brother in the face during a fight.

O'Kane came home drunk and attacked his brother when his brother was in a bedroom with the baby. O'Kane fell into the baby's cot during the incident and when his brother lifted the baby from the cot O'Kane swung at his brother. At least one punch hit the baby in the face.

Opposing bail a police officer told District Judge Barney McElholm that the baby and the brother were both treated in Altnagelvin Hospital for facing bruises they sustained in the assaults. The officer then handed in to Mr. McElholm an album of photographs showing the injuries.

The officer described O'Kane's attitude in the police station after his arrest, when O'Kane laughed and smiled, as rank. He said in front of the custody sergeant O'Kane made a threat against his brother.

The police officer said O'Kane "is not wise". He said the defendant was being investigated by the Metropolitan Police "for threatening to send bombs to a pay day loan company in London in 2012."

The police witness said O'Kane's actions in attacking the baby were an act of complete madness and he said if released on bail he believed O'Kane would re-offend or attempt to interfere with witnesses.

Defence solicitor Seamus Quigley said O'Kane had made full admissions to the two charges.

"They are guilty pleas all day long and there would be no mileage in the defendant interfering with any witness", he said.

Mr. Quigley said O'Kane would be willing to live at any Simon Community hostel outside of Derry and he described O'Kane as now being contrite for his awful actions.

Mr. McElholm asked "how could any human being continue to throw punches at another person who is holding a baby?"

However the District Judge said the court was acutely aware that O'Kane could well serve the equivalent of the maximum sentence of six months for the offence while in prison remand. He said there was also a presumption in favour of bail.

O'Kane was released on his own bail of £750 to attend court again on June 8.

As part of his bail conditions he can only reside at an address approved by the police and he's banned from consuming alcohol and illegal drugs. He was also ordered not to enter within ten miles of the Bishop Street courthouse except for court appointments and he's also to be electronically tagged.

"If there is one breach he will be returned to custody so he has been well warned", Mr. McElholm said.

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