A man who absconded while awaiting trial for child cruelty offences against his newborn son, leaving his partner to face court alone, has been detected and arrested by bench warrant.
The man, who is aged in his twenties but cannot be identified to protect the child, is charged with unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm between November 16 and December 9, 2020, as well as wilful ill-treatment, failing to take action knowing the child had suffered serious physical harm as a result of an unlawful act.
His partner, also aged in her twenties, appeared in the dock before Dungannon Crown Court last year where she admitted failing to protect the child knowing he had been assaulted, injured and at risk of significant harm from unlawful acts.
She gave birth in mid-November 2020 and just under a month later, while undergoing glaucoma screening, doctors noted retinal haemorrhages.
Further examination found significant brain injury as well fractures of the right arm, left upper and lower leg and multiple ribs.
The injuries were caused by violent shaking, but it was not possible to say when they occurred.
While it appeared unlikely the woman was aware of the injuries themselves and the court accepted she did not cause them, the perpetrator was her partner and the child’s father, who at that time was “unamenable to prosecution”.
Nonetheless the woman was “criminally liable” by knowing the risk of exposing the child to his father.
Judge Brian Sherrard remarked: “It is a blessing that the child has made a full recovery from his injuries which can only be described as exceptionally serious.”
The baby was the youngest in the household, with the woman having two other children from a previous relationship – all of whom are now in care.
The judge accepted she was a young mother without a great deal of support, but noted this wasn’t the first time the children were potentially exposed to harm.
At the time of the attack on the baby, all three children were already on the Child Protection Register, due to domestic abuse by the father of the older children.
While acknowledging the woman was a victim of domestic abuse, Judge Sherrard told her: “It aggravates your offending that you chose to bring another abusive, volatile man into the household. Despite everything, it is concerning that you continue to minimise your role in this appalling offence.
“I consider it an aggravating factor that you point the finger of blame at issues surrounding the child’s birth when it’s quite apparent he was grotesquely injured while in your care.”
The judge continued: “Given the harm caused to this child, who was entirely vulnerable, and your role in that harm, had you been found guilty by a jury it is unlikely you would have been sentenced to less than 20 months immediate imprisonment. You pleaded guilty at an early opportunity making the appropriate sentence 12 months imprisonment.”
The bench warrant remained outstanding until last week when the father was arrested after attending a medical appointment in Armagh.
He was brought before Dungannon Magistrates’ Court and remanded in custody.
His case is now being fast-tracked toward trial at crown court.