Belfast Telegraph

Derry man who punched baby in the face escapes jail term

By George Jackson

A man who smiled and laughed in a police station after he was arrested for assaulting an eleven month old boy as the baby was being held by his father, has been given a five-month jail sentence, suspended for two years at the Magistrate's Court in Londonderry.

Twenty-six years old Aaron O'Kane admitted committing the two assaults on the man and baby in the Carnhill area of the city on April 30 of this year after he'd returned home following a day long drinking binge.

Since the assaults O'Kane has been living at an address at Lodge Road in Coleraine as a result of a court order banning him from returning to Derry.

A Public Prosecution Service solicitor told District Judge Barney McElholm that at 11.15 pm on April 30 the police received a 999 call from a woman who was screaming and obviously distressed. In the background a man was heard shouting at her to hang up. Minutes later a second 999 call was received from a man who said he and his baby son had been assaulted.

The police went to the house and detained O'Kane nearby. The baby's father told the police O'Kane had returned home drunk. He came into a bedroom where the baby and his father were asleep and switched on the light. The father asked him to turn the light off as it would waken his son who was asleep in his cot.

O'Kane then grabbed him and punched him ten times to the head and face. The woman ran upstairs and managed to separate the men but O'Kane again started to punch the father.

O'Kane fell into the baby's cot and when the baby's father lifted his son from the cot O'Kane again started punching him as the baby was being held in his father's arms.

One punch missed the baby's father and struck the baby on the side of his face. Another punch struck the father on the head knocking his head against his baby's head. Both the baby and his father sustained redness to the face.

The prosecutor said when it was put to O'Kane by the police after his arrest that his actions caused the baby distress "the defendant laughed and smiled during the interview. He said he was drunk so what would you expect".

Defence solicitor Seamus Quigley said of all the thousands of assault cases which have come before the courts in recent years, this one would live long in the memory. He said it was an extremely serious case and O'Kane was in no doubt of that.

"The defendant knows that no matter how the court deals with him today, the consequences of the offences will stay with him for the rest of his life. If he ever enters into a relationship and had a child from that relationship, in all probability the social services will put that child on the at-risk register", he said.

Mr Quigley said O'Kane had issues in relation to his temper and in relation to alcohol and drugs misuse.

"He is still trying to re-build bridges with his family who have taken a very responsible attitude that his behaviour is entirely unacceptable and in the consequences that fall from it", he said.

The baby's mother, grandmother and grandaunt were in court for the sentencing. They heard the District Judge describe O'Kane's behaviour as absolutely disgraceful.

"To punch someone who is holding a baby is completely and utterly disgusting. To laugh about it at his police interview, well I have to say I just cannot understand that form of mentality at all", he said.

As well as imposing the suspended jail sentence the District Judge ordered O'Kane to pay the baby compensation of £300 and he warned O'Kane if he didn't pay the compensation he would go to jail.

On Friday, an NSPCC Northern Ireland spokesperson said:

“O’Kane carried out an assault with complete indifference to the injuries he might inflict on a defenceless baby. It is entirely right that he has faced the courts to account for his reckless actions.”

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