Father who beat his children with a belt avoids jail sentence
A Co Tyrone man who admitted beating his children with a belt and who is considered to be at a high risk of reoffending has walked free from court with a combined probation and community service order.
He admitted charges of child cruelty by wilful ill-treatment and assault in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.
The defendant cannot be named to protect the identity of his son and daughter.
The offences occurred on dates between February 28 and August 10, 2012, and only came to police attention after an anonymous call from a member of the public to the NSPCC - even though social services were aware of issues at the family home.
Dungannon Magistrates Court heard that when the boy attended his primary school in March 2012, a classroom assistant noticed he had swelling and bruising to his nose.
She asked how this had happened and the boy said his father had hit him while he was doing his homework, which he had been finding very difficult.
While this was noted, the school decided not to report it and opted instead to monitor the situation.
However, when local social services attended the primary school in relation to enquiries into domestic abuse at the children's home, the previous incident was disclosed.
However, it was another four months before action was taken - after the call from the concerned member of the public.
On August 7, 2012, the NSPCC contacted police to say an anonymous caller had been in touch after the two children admitted to her that their father beat them with a belt and then showed her the marks left behind.
On being spoken to, the little girl initially said that had not happened to her, but she later claimed that both her father and step-mother beat her.
The children were medically examined and a report found that the marks discovered on one of them "could be consistent with belt marks".
Having been removed from the family home, the boy gave an interview in which he stated both he and his sister were beaten with a belt by their father and step-mother.
He further disclosed his step-mother had told both children they were not to tell anyone of the alleged attacks.
A witness whose children were friendly with the victims told police they were quite often unaccompanied outside.
The children also showed the witness marks they said were left behind after their father beat them with a belt.
Police arrested the man, who gave no-comment replies during the interview. He also failed to respond when shown photographs of the children's injuries.
The father did, however, accept that he had seen his wife strike the children once or twice, and that it may have left marks.
But he also claimed he argued with her about this because he did not agree with beatings.
Judge White imposed a 12- month order and sentenced the man to complete 100 hours of community service.