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Insufficient grounds to appeal sex offender child cruelty sentencing say PPS

Courts justice

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has concluded there are insufficient grounds to refer the sentence imposed on a father who seriously injured his baby son to the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, the Western Health and Social Care Trust, under whom the child was registered largely stonewalled enquiries, including why closer monitoring was not in place as the father has convictions for sexually abusing children.

The defendant, who cannot be named to protect the victim, admitted serious cruelty offences between May and August 2021.

Dungannon Crown Court heard the defendant was a stay-at-home parent looking after the baby who was only months old, while his partner worked.

Staff at a daycare facility observed bruising to the child’s face and as this was also noted around four weeks previously, Social Services were alerted.

Medical examination established the baby had non-accidental injuries including a fractured lower left leg, right shoulder and two ribs.

The defendant offered several explanations before admitting “squeezing” the baby’s chest causing the rib fractures, on one occasion hearing “a popping sound”.

The facial bruising was from grabbing the baby’s cheeks when he was crying.

Judge Brian Sherrard told the defendant: “Your baby was entirely helpless and in your care. You abused the trust that society placed in you in the most egregious manner …. The gravitas of offending lies not only in causing these injuries but in allowing your baby to suffer.”

He continued: “You have previous convictions for causing harm to children. This baby was seriously injured, and you ignored those injuries. Any right-thinking member of our community could not fail to be horrified by anybody causing a very young baby to sustain such serious injuries. The public have a very real concern for the welfare of our children.”

Turning to the psychiatric assessment Judge Sherrard said: “Perhaps the most shocking statement concludes it would be extremely unwise and dangerous to ever allow you any parental responsibility for any child.”

Describing this as “particularity damning and negative” he imposed a term of three years imprisonment, split into 12 months custody and 24 months on licence.

Following this, the PPS confirmed it was considering whether to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal.

In an updated statement a spokesperson has now advised: “While sentencing is a matter for the judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecutions does have the power to refer particular sentences to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that they may be unduly lenient. In this case, there is not a sufficient basis to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal for consideration.”

Previously the Western Trust were asked if those involved in the baby’s welfare were aware of the father’s convictions, substance misuse and documented anger issues and if so, was he assessed as suitable to have unsupervised care and why was the baby not on the ‘At Risk’ register from birth and closely monitored?

Also, given the baby’s very young age, why did a health visitor not see facial bruising to his face on one of multiple occasions?

Finally, is there to be a review into this matter and if so what are the Terms of Reference or if this has been completed, what recommendations were made and if pending, when is it expected to conclude?

A Western Trust spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individuals for reasons of privacy/confidentiality. We will carefully consider the outcome of this case to see if any learning can be identified and actioned.”

It was pointed out “the individual” was anonymised to protect the child thus safeguarding confidentiality, but the Western Trust declined further comment.

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