Sentencing has been deferred in the case of a woman who denied subjecting a baby to “abhorrent” cruelty, only changing her plea at the last minute after CCTV footage of her behaviour was produced – which she refused to view.
Aged in her twenties, the woman who is from the borough, who cannot be identified at this time, almost dropped the baby twice while running down a street shouting at her partner.
Dungannon Magistrates’ Court heard police were contacted just after midnight on March 12, 2022 as a distressed baby had been “abandoned” in a pram at the top of a flight of stairs in a block of flats.
As officers travelled the scene a second call was received from a bar manager advising she had removed a baby from an intoxicated woman.
When spoken to, the defendant claimed she was looking after the baby for her friend, when it was “snatched” from her by the bar manager.
She was arrested and initially claimed the baby’s mother agreed she would look after him for a few hours but then asked her to keep him overnight as she had “misused substances”.
The mother denied this insisting the defendant offered to take him for a few hours to give her a break.
The baby was collected by the defendant and her partner around 6pm and was to be returned by 8.30pm, however this time passed.
Around midnight the defendant rang the mother claiming her partner had “kicked her and the baby out”.
The bar manager told police she observed a male walking down the street with the defendant “running after him, shouting and swearing while carrying the baby whose head was flopping around”.
She approached the defendant who said she and her partner had fallen out.
During this exchange the baby fell backwards, flipped upside down and the defendant just managed to catch him, preventing his head striking the pavement.
She allowed the bar manager to take the baby, stating “he’s not mine”.
CCTV showed the defendant carrying the baby into a flat around 11pm, then emerge and place him into the pram which she roughly pushed to the top stairs, where he was left alone for over 25 minutes.
Street footage showed her carrying the baby while unsteady on her feet, almost dropping him twice.
A defence barrister accepted the incident was “abhorrent and appalling”.
He added: “The CCTV makes very poor viewing and something the defendant chose not to watch. It was distorted thinking by believing herself to be in a more appropriate state to look after this child rather than the mother.”
Noting the defendant’s refusal to view the CCTV, Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare, asked if she looked at the images of the injuries caused to the baby, or the state of the flat she took him to, but the defence replied these were “explained to her”.
Addressing her directly, Judge O’Hare said: “This is a truly shocking case. You chose to take responsibility for an infant whom you were incapable of looking after and you did nothing to prevent any harm coming to him. It’s pure good fortune he wasn’t snatched when he was abandoned or banged his head off the ground. You didn’t even want to view the CCTV or the images of injuries caused by the squalid conditions. It’s absolutely appalling. You caused this baby wilful, deliberate harm. This is most serious offending and the worst incident I have seen in a long time.”
However Judge O’Hare decided to test the defendant to demonstrate she is willing to address her behaviour and deferred sentencing for nine months.
He warned, “Step out of line at all and you put yourself in custody.”
The case will be reviewed in April 2024.