A COUNTY Armagh mother and father whose five-week-old baby was admitted to hospital with non-accidental injuries have been sentenced for their respective roles.
The couple, who can’t be named to protect the identity of the victim, first appeared before Newry Crown Court in October 2019, pleading not guilty to maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent as well as allowing serious harm.
The father later admitted inflicting grievous bodily harm but not with intent, while the mother accepted allowing the child to suffer serious physical harm.
The court heard the couple brought the baby to Craigavon Area Hospital on March 31, 2016.
Medical staff discovered a very serious femoral fracture with other bruising and marks, leading to suspicions of non-accidental injury.
Police and Social Services were alerted, and the baby was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment and further investigation.
Subsequently 17 fractures at varying stages of healing were identified, including nine ribs and multiple fractures to both legs. The main injury was caused around 10 days prior to hospital presentation.
Both parents were arrested and the father claimed that prior to hospital admission, he lifted the child to change his nappy but tripped and “reflexively squished” him.
Beyond that he could provide no other explanation for the injuries.
The father disputed the femoral fracture was up to 10 days old, insisting the child was content until the date of hospital admission.
The mother meanwhile claimed her husband called out to her on noticing the child’s leg appeared unusual. She phoned the out-of-hours doctor and was advised to take the child to hospital immediately.
It was only there she became aware of the other marks on his body she claimed, and was adamant she did not cause them.
The father later accepted occasionally rough-handling the child due to “mounting difficulty and frustration” while looking after the new-born. He accepted responsibility for the injuries and that very serious harm was caused, but insisted he did not intend this.
The mother accepted failing to protect the child from serious harm and not seeking medical attention sufficiently swiftly, when he was in significant pain.
Judge Gordon Kerr QC referred to one specific medical expert’s opinion who felt the injuries were indicative of the baby being swung by the legs.
This however wasn’t noted in any other medical evidence.
Counsel for the father argued there was general agreement the leg injury was caused by "rough manhandling in the course of my client not coping".
He said while it is acknowledged women can suffer depression after giving birth, in this instance it was the male.
"He was up all night, exhausted and getting little sleep. He snapped. He didn’t seek help. Neither of them did," he said.
It was pointed out the child suffered no long-term effects, but Judge Kerr remarked, "It’s not possible to be absolutely definitive of that. It isn’t only the effects on the child, which don’t just end with injuries. It has ramifications within the entire family dynamic."
The defence continued his client, "has lost everything - his family, his marriage and his child. All was blown away by his own acts. It’s an utterly unenviable position to find himself in by the effects of his own hand. He accepted roughly handling the child but could never accept he ever intended it."
The Judge accepted the father took responsibility for harming his baby and understood he was not in a good mental state to be looking after him.
A jail term of 18 months was imposed to be split nine months in custody and nine on licence.
While Judge Kerr felt the custodial threshold was passed in respect of the mother, he agreed to suspend the three month term for two years.