Northern Ireland

West Belfast man denies fracturing baby's skull

A man accused of fracturing his baby daughter's skull claimed her bottle caused the injuries, a court has heard.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the child's identity, allegedly told police he left her alone to get food.

A judge was told he then later claimed to have accidentally struck the baby girl's head against a wall.

The suspect faces a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent over the alleged assault at a house in west Belfast on 3 November.

Bruising

He was granted bail but ordered to have no contact with either the child or her mother unless approved by social services.

The prosecution barrister told the court the accused's daughter had sustained significant facial bruising and a fracture to the skull.

She said the injuries occurred when the child's mother left her in his care for a short time.

"The applicant, when he was arrested, made an unsolicited remark that he left the child on the bed, had gone for a fry and when he came up the child's bottle had fallen on her face," the barrister said.

With medical opinion said to question this explanation, the court heard how the accused later alleged that he accidentally hit his daughter's head against a wall before dropping the bottle on her head.

During his bail application, concerns were raised over a proposal for the man to live with his parents at another location in the west of the city.

'Depression'

The judge heard of his previous mental health problems, which included at one stage cutting his own wrists, and ongoing problems with depression.

The prosecution barrister said social services believed it was too great a risk for him to be allowed to stay at the house along with a younger brother and sister.

But a defence barrister argued there had never been any previous concerns raised in connection with his client's siblings.

The barrister also pointed out that the family home was miles away from where the accused's partner and daughter live.

Ruling on the application, the judge described it as an unusual case.

Mr Justice Hart said: "On the one hand there is a clear prima facie case against this man of inflicting serious physical harm upon his defenceless child.

"As against that he has a completely clear record and in all other respects appears to be a hardworking young man."

Granting bail, he noted that the accused's brother and sister were significantly older than the alleged victim.

But imposing the prohibition on making contact, Mr Justice Hart added: "He should be under no illusion, for example, that if he starts texting this lady it will be a breach of his bail."