A taxi driver who beat his 11-year-old son 20 times with an umbrella after locking him out of his house in the rain has been given a suspended sentence.
In the wake of the assault, the 42-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, told his son not to tell his mother or he would be “thrown in the hell fire by God”, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Thursday.
He pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing harm to the child in his Dublin home on February 16th, 2020.
A local garda detective told Tessa White BL, defending, that on the day in question, the boy's mother dropped her three children off to the father's house for an access visit. The parents are separated, the court heard.
When the woman picked her children up after the visit, her 11-year-old son started crying in the car. The children told their mother that their father had told them they would be thrown in the hell fire by God if they told their mother what had happened.
When she told them this would not happen, they told her the boy had been beaten and she went to gardaí.
When interviewed by specialist gardaí, the boy said that upon arriving at his father's house he had asked to go out and play. The father said he could, but warned him he would not be allowed back into the house, the court heard. The child assumed his father was being sarcastic and went outside.
After half an hour, he was cold and tried to get back into the house, but the door was locked. He knocked and called for his father, who he could see in the kitchen, but got no response. One of his siblings told him through a window that his father wouldn't let him back into the house.
The boy remained outside the house for another hour, at which point he was “really wet, cold and stressed”, counsel said. He knew he needed shelter so he decided to walk back to his mother's house, which was a 15-minute drive away, the court heard.
He had walked a short distance when his father drove up and brought him back to his home. Once in his father's house, the boy was taken into the sitting room where the father closed the curtains and then beat him to his body 20 times with a metal umbrella.
During the assault, the man repeatedly said: “Will you run away again?” while the boy cried and apologised. The boy suffered bruising to his torso and a cut to his knee during the beating, which ended when the umbrella broke.
When interviewed by gardaí, the man denied ever physically punishing any of his children. He has no previous convictions.
A victim impact statement by the boy was handed into court, but not read out at his request. Neither he nor his mother were in court for the sentencing.
Ian Woodland BL, defending, said the man has since engaged in parenting and conflict resolution courses. He said the man – a taxi driver – had worked a night shift prior to the assault and was sleep-deprived and stressed.
He has not seen his children since the assault and it is unclear if he will regain access at any point, the court heard. “This one serious error of judgment has potentially deprived him of ever seeing his family again,” defence counsel said.
Sentencing the man, Judge Elma Sheahan noted it was a serious breach of trust given the relationship between the man and his son and the disparity in age and size. She said it was clear the boy remained fearful and distressed long after the incident.
She took into account a number of mitigating factors, including the fact that the man's guilty plea saved the boy from having to come to court and give evidence. She noted he has no previous convictions, has expressed remorse and has engaged in courses.
She handed down a six-month sentence which she suspended in full on a number of conditions, including that the man continue engaging in the conflict resolution course for another six months.