Belfast Telegraph

Child cruelty charge Northern Ireland couple have bail application adjourned

By Ashleigh McDonald

A bail application made on behalf of a couple facing child cruelty charges was adjourned yesterday to allow time to seek the view of social services.

Rita Beltrao (19) and her partner Reuben Santos (26), who are from Portugal but live at Greenfields in Randalstown, are both employed as care assistants.

They are in custody on charges arising from injuries sustained to a two-year-old boy, who is understood to live in the same home as them and other Portuguese nationals.

The High Court in Belfast heard the child was brought to A&E at Antrim Area Hospital on March 25 with multiple injuries.

Santos - one of two men who attended hospital with the boyer - told staff the child had an infection in his groin area.

Crown barrister Conor Maguire said when the boy was examined by a doctor he had multiple bruising "from neck to toe", had blisters on his left torso and left shoulder and was also bruised to the left side of his groin area. There was swelling to his groin which led medics to suspect the injuries were non-accidental, and consistent with physical abuse.

Beltrao and Santos both applied for bail last week, but the hearing was adjourned after it emerged a suitable address was being sought after their landlord withdrew their tenancy. During the hearing objections were raised about the suitability of a new address as the female occupant is heavily pregnant and due in May. This home, the court heard, could be deemed unsuitable by social services due to the charges faced by the couple.

It also emerged that Beltrao and Santos' daughter, who will be three in August, is now in foster care. Outlining the Crown case against both Beltrao and Santos, prosecuting barrister Mr Maguire said the arrests followed the hospital visit on March 25.

When police launched an investigation they discovered the child lived with his father in the same house as Beltrao and Santos, and their young daughter. All three adults were arrested on suspicion of child cruelty.

The child's mother, in Portugal at the time of the arrests, has since returned to Northern Ireland and has been charged with causing or allowing harm to a child.

In custody Beltrao denied causing injuries to the young boy. Instead, she told officers she didn't think the boy's father was a capable parent and that she comforted the youngster when he cried.

She also told police she was aware of bruising. She said "one bruise would go away and another one would show up", and she also bought cream for them which she applied.

Beltrao made the case that she asked a friend who was a nurse to look at the bruising, and was advised the child was in a bad way and should be see a doctor - but this didn't happen immediately as the boy was never registered with a GP.

The court heard that when he was arrested Santos also denied hurting the youngster. He told officers that when he asked how the child received burns, the child's father said when he was bathing the youngster the child turned off the cold tap and was burned by the hot water tap.

Santos said as the youngster became more restless, he took him to hospital, with the father arriving two hours later. Santos also told police the child had one leg shorter than the other and was prone to falling over.

In addition, he said a family dog had jumped on the boy and knocked him over, and he also saw the child fall over after he was pushed on a slide by another youngster.

Barrister Sean Mullan, representing Beltrao, said that while his client accepted she saw bruising, she is "absolutely adamant at no stage did she cause any injuries".

Mark O'Connor, the barrister representing Santos, said that since being remanded in custody his client had been attacked.

Madam Justice McBride adjourned the bail application until next Thursday. She said: "I will adjourn the matter pending a view from social services."

Belfast Telegraph

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