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Jail for man who inflicted multiple rib fractures and leg breaks on baby son

Defendant ‘couldn’t cope’, court told


At an earlier hearing the man entered a guilty plea to causing grievous bodily harm to his baby son. Stock picture

At an earlier hearing the man entered a guilty plea to causing grievous bodily harm to his baby son. Stock picture

At an earlier hearing the man entered a guilty plea to causing grievous bodily harm to his baby son. Stock picture

A man who inflicted horrific multiple rib fractures and leg breaks on his five-week-old baby son because he “couldn’t cope,” has been handed an 18-month sentence.

While the 37-year-old was jailed for the repugnant way he handled his vulnerable son, his 40-year-old wife avoided prison after Judge Gordon Kerr QC suspended her three-month sentence for a year.

At an earlier hearing the man entered a guilty plea to causing grievous bodily harm to his baby son between February 25 and April 1, 2016.

His wife admitted a charge of causing or allowing her child to suffer serious physical harm between the same dates.

Sentencing the Co Armagh couple at Newry Crown Court, Judge Kerr said that given the background circumstances “there are few injured parties who are more vulnerable than a five-week-old baby”.

“The effects of his behaviour have ramifications for the family unit as a whole, including the other child, who is now no longer in the family he could have anticipated,” said the judge.

He added that “the ramifications just don’t end with the actual injuries or direct mental consequences of injuries”.

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In an agreed statement of facts, prosecuting QC Neil Conor told the court how the couple, who cannot be identified to protect their children, arrived with their baby at Craigavon Area Hospital in the early hours of March 31, 2016.

“Medical staff readily identified a left femoral fracture and other bruising and marks in conjunction with the fracture, led to the suspicion of non-accidental injury,” said the lawyer.

The baby was then transferred to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the authorities were alerted.

When the infant was examined, a consultant paediatric radiologist “identified 17 fractures of varying ages” and while the leg break was between seven and 10 days old, she also identified “nine healing anterior and posterior rib fractures” and multiple corner fractures in various bones in both legs.

Corner fractures in infants’ limbs are often associated with inflicted injuries.

The radiologist, said Mr Connor, described some of the fractures as “recent” and others as “healing” but that “none of the injuries were as old as five weeks and therefore none of the injuries could be described as birth injuries”.

Arrested and interviewed, the baby’s father claimed that the night before the hospital admission, he had been carrying his son when he tripped and may have inadvertently “squished” him but he noticed his left leg was limp when he was changing his nappy.

His wife said she had contacted the out of hours GP service when her husband drew her attention to her son’s leg but apart from that, as far she was concerned, “her son was a healthy baby”.

She was adamant that “she had not caused the injuries and had no knowledge of any injury until the night before his presentation at hospital”.

Mr Connor said the husband’s guilty plea to GBH was accepted in that “against a background of mounting difficulty and frustration in looking after a newborn baby, he roughly handled his son on occasions, to the extent that he was responsible for the injuries sustained”.

His wife’s admission was that “she failed to protect her son from the foreseen risk of serious physical harm and did not seek medical attention for him sufficiently swiftly when he would have been in evident pain”.

Defence QC Alan Kane submitted that the father “has lost everything”.

“He has lost his family… he has lost his marriage, he has lost the entirety of everything that he had and looked forward to from the day that he brought home his young child from that hospital with his wife, whom he loved in a perfectly stable and loving marriage, and now that has all been blown away by his acts,” said the senior barrister.

“It’s an utterly unenviable position for someone to find themselves in as a result of their own hand with the extensive implications for everyone else.”

After a defence application for an indication of sentence, the baby’s mother knew she was not going to jail and appeared at court by videolink, whereas her husband had already been warned that he was inevitably going to custody.

As Judge Kerr announced the 18-month sentence, split 50/50 between custody and licence, the man showed little emotion but simply reached for his hold-all bag which was taken by a prison officer as the 37-year-old was handcuffed and led to the cells.

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