Father of Cork toddler Santina Cawley confesses to assaulting woman convicted of her murder

37-year-old Michael Cawley appeared before Cork District Court where he faced a charge of assault causing harm to Karen Harrington on January 26, 2021, contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
Father of Cork toddler Santina Cawley confesses to assaulting woman convicted of her murder

Michael Cawley pictured at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, May 16, where Karen Harrington was jailed for life for murdering two-year-old Santina Cawley. 37-year-old Michael Cawley appeared before Cork District Court today where he faced a charge of assault causing harm to Karen Harrington on January 26, 2021, contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act. Picture Dan Linehan

The father of murdered infant, Santina Cawley, confessed today to a charge of assault causing harm to the woman convicted last week of murdering his daughter.

37-year-old Michael Cawley appeared before Cork District Court where he faced a charge of assault causing harm to Karen Harrington on January 26, 2021, contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

No facts of the case were outlined in court but the charge sheet refers to the location as being a bus stop at Merchants Quay, Cork, in January last year – approximately 18 months after the murder of his daughter by his then partner, Karen Harrington.

Defence solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said the accused was prepared to plead guilty to the charge at Cork District Court today.

Sergeant Gearóid Davis asked for a two-week adjournment for sentencing. Sgt. Davis said the reason for the adjournment application was “to canvas the question of whether there is to be a victim impact statement".

Such a statement can be made by an injured party if they so wish but they are not obliged to do so.

Judge Joanne Carroll adjourned the case until June 8 with Mr Cawley remanded on continuing bail until then. It is anticipated that the facts of the assault case will be outlined on that date.

It was only last week that Mr Cawley’s own victim impact statement made headlines when his former partner, Karen Harrington, was jailed for life for murdering his daughter Michael Cawley of Leeside Apartments, Bachelors Quay, Cork, was originally charged by Garda Conor Manton with assaulting Karen Harrington.

She was jailed for life on Monday, May 16, for murdering two-year-old Santina Cawley.

The jury of eleven were unanimous in their guilty verdict against Karen Harrington at the Central Criminal Court last week.

The murder trial was going into the beginning of its fourth week on what was Day 14 of the trial.

The eleven jurors – one was excused early in the case – were thanked by Mr Justice Michael McGrath for their attention to the case at the Central Criminal Court. He excused them for life from further service on any jury.

38-year-old Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, denied the murder of Santina Cawley at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5, 2019.

She even opted to give evidence in her own defence – something she was not legally required to do – and used the opportunity to say, “I did not murder Santina Cawley.” 

However, the jury did not believe her and returned their unanimous guilty verdict. It took them four hours and 46 minutes of deliberations – which commenced on Friday - to reach this verdict.

Seán Gillane, prosecution senior counsel, had submitted that Karen Harrington was like someone walking between the raindrops, convincing herself she is not getting wet but the only person she is convincing is herself.

Imposing the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said, “The murder of Santina Cawley – a defenceless two-year-old child is truly shocking. It goes against nature for parents to bury a child but to lose a child in these circumstances is beyond description – the extent of the terror to which Santina was subjected and the brutal nature of her death.

“I have no doubt Santina will continue to live long in the memory of those who knew and loved her. She will continue to be loved by her family and friends.

“It cannot have been easy for Michael Cawley to tell us what he saw in the apartment when he returned – the great courage and dignity he displayed giving evidence in the trial.” 

The judge expressed his condolences to the parents, family and friends of Santina and complimented the gardaí on the quality of their investigation of a difficult case.

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