A Kerry farmer struck his ten-year-old daughter nine or ten times with the branch of a tree and yesterday he said there wasn’t a day when he did not regret it.
His daughter no longer wants to have anything to do with him and he only sees his other child against a background where he and his wife had separated prior to the incident.
Speaking through tears today about his two children, the 53-year-old said, “They were like my left and right hand – the two best children you could possibly imagine. They were with me every single day since they were babies. You could not ask for two better children. The separation took its toll on everyone in the family.”
The accused man pleaded guilty to the charge against him and the prosecution withdrew a charge of assault causing harm.
Joseph Cuddigan, solicitor, said the accused had a cancer diagnosis at the time and deferred an operation but was on heavy medication which gave him violent headaches, numbness down one side of his face and tiredness.
He said he could not get help and that his wife would allegedly not agree to mind the children even though he said he felt unable to mind them at the time.
Inspector Gillian Sinnott outlined the background to the child neglect where the charge refers to the wilful assault, ill-treatment or neglect of the ten-year-old exposing her to unnecessary suffering.
The injured party and the younger child had come from school to his home where he farmed on that day on May 24 2019.
“He got cross and broke a branch from a tree and hit her nine of ten times with the branch… When her mother collected her (and the younger child) she was visibly upset and she told her mother what happened. The matter was reported to the gardaí that evening,” Insp. Sinnott said.
Photographs of the injuries were handed in to Judge Marian O’Leary.
Mr Cuddigan said the farmer was working all of that day and did not feel well and that when the two children argued with each other he raised his voice and told them to stop.
The defendant said in a statement, “I broke a mountain ash twig with light leaves and hit her with it – a light twig.”
He also said he was being protective at the time towards the other child who had a history of medical difficulties.
Mr Cuddigan said that in the course of the defendant’s statement to gardaí he said his daughter picked up a pole from an electric fence and struck him with it and that she suffered injuries to herself in the course of using this pole to hit him. Mr Cuddigan said that was why the prosecution withdrew a charge against the defendant of assault causing harm to his daughter.
“I regret my hasty behaviour in hitting her with the ash plant,” he said. He cannot be named as it would identify the child.
Mr Cuddigan said that while corporal punishment in schools was outlawed in 1982 he said, “It was only with the Children’s Act of 2015 that the right of parents to chastise a child came to an end.”
He said the defendant had been “born in an older Ireland.”
Judge O’Leary adjourned sentencing until October 6 for a probation report and said that the probation service might organise counselling for the defendant.
“Sometimes everyone needs a little bit of help. But this cannot happen again,” the judge said.
The Kerry case was heard at Cork District Court because video link – which is unavailable in Kerry – would have been necessary had the case gone to trial.