Jail for thug who beat his cousin's child with a belt
A man who beat his cousin's child with a belt, causing her to flee to a neighbour's house for safety, has been jailed for five months.
Dungannon Magistrates Court heard that the 41-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, had lived with his cousin and her child in their Co Tyrone home, but had been remanded in custody since his arrest after the incident on October 13 last year.
The court heard a member of the public contacted police on the afternoon of the day in question to report a neighbour's child had run to her home in a distressed state, claiming she had been struck.
Police spoke to the 13-year-old in the presence of her mother and she said the defendant had grabbed her by the wrist and beaten her with a belt, the court heard.
She showed officers a welt on her upper right leg, but both the child and her mother declined to make a complaint or allow the injury to be photographed.
The defendant was arrested and told police: "She didn't behave after school so I beat her and she ran away."
During interview he denied the incident occurred and instead described the child as "crazy" and said she needed a mental health assessment. He claimed the child "makes things up, sees ghosts and tells lies".
He said the child had "made the whole thing up, to have time to play with the computer", which he was using.
The court was told a social worker spoke to the victim, who said the defendant had forced his way into her bedroom, and when she ran into another room, he forced his way in there too.
He then grabbed her and delivered a blow with a belt. The social worker saw the child's injury and noted her mother appeared to be "terrified" of the defendant.
The mother described him as unstable and said she was afraid of what he would do if left alone with her child.
She further disclosed after he beat the child and she fled from the house he had told his cousin: "I'm going to find her and kill her."
A defence solicitor accepted the matter was "very serious and unsavoury" and had been aggravated by his client's indifference in the early stages.
The defence added the child had, in fact, later made a statement of complaint, and his client agreed the content was accurate.
District Judge John Meehan said: "I've heard of (the defendant's) denigration of the victim. I've heard the mother is terrified of him. Yet he claims in the pre-sentence report he intends to return to reside with them when he leaves custody."
The defence quickly quashed this, stating: "I feel that is misguided.
"I do not believe social services would allow that to arise."
Judge Meehan responded: "Your client needs to be strongly advised not to attempt to press the family into having him back."
Judge Meehan told the defendant: "There is very little to be said where you, armed with a belt, beat a child and have her flee the house in terror.
"What is acceptable for others is clearly lower than what is acceptable to you."