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Jury to begin deliberations in case of couple accused of child cruelty

On day 13 of the trial, lawyers for all sides gave closing speeches to the jury.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

LAWYERS FOR A man accused of neglect and cruelty of his daughter have told a jury that the man faced a “Hobson’s choice” when he found the girl unconscious: to call 999 and lose his family or to hope she gets better.

The Dublin-based 39-year-old man and his 36-year-old wife have pleaded not guilty to two charges of assault causing serious harm and three charges of child cruelty at the family home in Dublin on dates between 28 June and 2 July 2019.

One of the charges alleges that the parents willfully neglected the nine-year-old in a manner likely to cause her unnecessary suffering or injury to her health or seriously affect her well-being by failing to provide adequate medical aid.

The trial has now reached closing stages and the jury is due to begin deliberations tomorrow. The child suffered catastrophic brain injuries on 2 July 2019 and remains completely dependent on carers.

The parents, who are originally from north Africa, cannot be named to protect the identity of the child.

On day 13 of the trial, lawyers for all sides gave closing speeches to the jury.

Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, told the jury that the State’s case is that the parents acted in common design or joint enterprise in setting out to inflict violence on the child.

“Both were embarked on a course of behaviour which involved inflicting violence on [child's name] even when it would be apparent the behaviour could cause serious harm.

“They were tacitly going to do whatever it took to get [child] to behave better, to be different, to get rid of the djinn,” she said, referring to the references in evidence to the Islamic concept of a devil or spirit called a djinn.

She said that the father was seen by the other children choking his daughter, holding her by the throat until she passed out.

She said that he could not have missed the burn marks on his daughter’s hands and feet as she slept in the same room as her parents. She said he did nothing about it and that “this was part of the agreement” with his wife.

Counsel said that the child’s siblings testified that they saw their mother use a hot knife to burn the complainant and also force the girl’s hand onto a hot oven. She said this was consistent with the medical evidence of the cause of the burns.

She said the parents lied to paramedics and gardaí and that these lies are indicative of their guilt.

Judge Martin Nolan instructed jurors that people tell lies for many possible reasons and that before relying on the lie they must be satisfied with the motivation behind the lie.

James Dwyer SC, defending the father, said that the State had not proven their allegation that his client was in the family home at all times during the weekend running up to the date of the child’s hospitalisation.

He said that his client found himself in a crisis on 2 July and that the evidence of the other children was that he appeared shocked during a video call when his wife called him at work and told him the child was unconscious.

This call took place around lunchtime and the complainant’s sister gave evidence of finding her sister unconscious two hours earlier. The evidence is that the father left work suddenly after lunch and arrived home at about 3.17pm.

He didn’t call an ambulance until 10pm and later told paramedics and gardaí that he only got home at around 7.30pm and tried to perform CPR on his daughter.

Dwyer said that his client was not in the house when the catastrophic injuries were inflicted on the child and he asked jurors to consider if there is “another reason why he may lie about these brutal injuries apparently inflicted by his wife”.

“This is a man facing losing his family. He was trying to do the right thing.

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“He faced a Hobson’s choice. He rings 999 and loses everything. He doesn’t ring 999 and loses everything,” counsel said.

He said that the evidence of his client’s young son is that on seeing his daughter, the man told his wife “why did you do that, you went on the wrong path, why do you hurt [complainant's name] all the time?”

Patrick Gageby SC, defending the mother, said the State’s had failed to provide evidence that his client intentionally or recklessly intended to cause serious harm by her actions.

He said that there is medical evidence that the harm resulted from secondary impact syndrome and that the first impact could have been the fall from the bike a few days earlier. He said the medical evidence is that the effects of this first impact may not be obvious.

He said the second trauma could result from violent shaking or “a very vigorous push” and that the evidence of one sibling is that she heard the complainant in the bathroom saying to her mother “stop pushing”.

He asked jurors to consider whether pushing or even slapping in the bathroom amounted to an intention to cause serious harm.

Considering the evidence of burns, bites and bruising on the child counsel said it was a “conundrum” in the case that a number of social care workers did not report seeing anything that aroused their suspicions in this area.

The trial continues.

About the author:

Declan Brennan

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