Father avoids conviction for grabbing his son, 10
A man has been found to have assaulted his son but has escaped a conviction.
A recent district court sitting in the South-West heard that on a previous date, prosecution evidence had been heard that them an had grabbed his 10-year-old son by the throat, causing him to hit his head on a door before falling to the ground while he was on an access visit.
The judge said the court had heard from the boy, his sister, and a specialist garda interviewer in relation to the allegation, which the man denied.
He lives in Co Cork and his former partner lives in the North East.
The court heard evidence from the man, and his current partner, that he did not grab his son by the throat but rather held him by the shoulder while trying to get him to remove one of three Tshirts he was wearing. The court heard it was customary that clothes worn by the children during their visits south stayed there, and that the boy was hot but refused to take off the T-shirts or a pair of tracksuit bottoms.
The man told the judge that on the evening in question he drove his children back to the home of his former partner, but discovered she was not there and that only his eldest child, who had not visited him that weekend, was present. He said because he did not want the children to be on their own he went to a Garda station and reported the matter, the court hearing that it was logged as child neglect.
The court heard claims that the children were extremely physical with each other and the boy could have been hurt subsequently that evening. When reminded of the evidence given in court and in statements from the boy and his sister, the man claimed they may have been coached by his wife.
The judge heard that the mother noticed marks on her son’s neck and went to report the matter to Tusla. The judge noted that this was done before the boy was taken to a GP, who in his notes referred to tenderness to the sides of the boy’s neck.
The man’s solicitor said the family law court local to the woman and Tusla both looked into the incident and said there were no child protection concerns and considered the matter closed.
The man’s partner, who was present at the time of the alleged incident, denied he had grabbed his son’s throat or that he hit his head or fell to the ground. Voices were raised, she said, but “it was not severe yelling”.
“It was a touch and a pull but it was not violent in any way on the shoulder.”
The judge said he believed there was a “significant body of evidence” against the accused and that when the children had been giving evidence in court they had sought to “downplay” what happened, feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed about giving evidence against their father.
He said the context was a marriage break up some years ago and that the father, like the mother on the previous court date, had not lost an opportunity to “attack and smear the other parent”.
The judge said the man’s evidence minimised what had happened. “The court has no doubt there was a physical assault here.”
The father had no convictions and the judge said a conviction in this instance “would be damning” and may have implication for his work. Issuing a conditional discharge under the Probation Act, the judge said the man was required to keep the peace and commit no offence for three years.