The Recorder of Belfast issued a warning yesterday that domestic violence on children “will not be tolerated by the courts” as he jailed a man for attacking his son.
Judge Stephen Fowler QC imposed a 14-month sentence on the father-of-three for strangling and slapping his teenage son in a drunken incident last February.
The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared at Belfast Crown Court via a video-link with his solicitor’s office.
The 44-year-old Co Antrim man was ordered by Judge Fowler to surrender himself to custody at Laganside Courts to begin a seven-month prison sentence, which will be followed by the same period on licence.
He admitted assaulting his son, occasioning him actual bodily harm in their Newtownabbey home on February 11, 2019 and to a previous common assault on the teenager the year before, on February 1, 2018.
During the February 2019 incident, the teenager was out with friends on Sunday, February 10 then came home and went to bed. When he woke the following morning, he slept in and was late for school.
At around 10am his father, who had been drinking, told him he could stay off school. He then told his son he wanted more drink, ordered a litre bottle of vodka which was delivered by taxi, then drank half the contents in 10 minutes.
The pair sat in the living room, then around noon the son said he was going out.
They argued about a mobile phone and a picture of the teenager with an Ecstasy tablet in his mouth and a bottle of vodka, then the father told his son he couldn’t go out as he was off school and called him “a waste of space”.
He got up, placed his hands around his son’s neck and started squeezing. He knelt on his son’s leg to prevent him getting up, and when the teen used his legs to try and push his father off, his father squeezed harder.
The teenager tried to tell his father he couldn’t breathe but was unable to do so, then after letting go of his son’s neck, the father slapped him with an open palm several times.
At this point the teenager was able to get up and told his father he was going out to take drugs. His father grabbed him again by the throat and pushed him against the living room wall.
He let go to issue more slaps — which the son described as being ‘a four out of 10 pain’ — and told him he was going to kill him. The teenager was able to slip out from under his father’s arms and out of the living room.
He went to his bedroom, got changed, went back into the living room where he drank a ‘really strong vodka’ then left the house and met a friend.
When he told police what happened, the teenager also recalled an incident the year before when he and his father had an argument about the teenager’s drug-taking.
He said as he walked away from his father during the argument, his father used both hands to push him on to his back. On that occasion he ran into his bedroom, locked the door, climbed out a window and went to his aunt’s house.
Defence barrister Alan Kane QC said his client had accepted full responsibility for his actions, and that the relationship between father and son had been “badly soured” by his client’s drink problem.
Judge Fowler noted that the teenager sustained bruising to his neck, and was left with a loss of self-esteem and feelings of anxiety as a result of the violent incident.
Saying that the attack occurred at home and in a place where the teenager should have felt safe, the judge noted there were previous incidents of domestic abuse against the teenager’s mother and that he has no contact with his other two children.
Despite being urged by the defence not to impose a prison sentence, Judge Fowler said: “In the circumstances, I consider that a period in custody is required to meet the gravity of the offending and as a warning to others that domestic violence on children within the family will not be tolerated by the courts.”