Northern Ireland

Bessbrook child suffered 'permanent injuries', Darren Fagan court told

Darren Fagan Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Darren Fagan denies the attempted murder of the toddler

A two-year-old girl whose skull fractures were allegedly inflicted in an attempt to kill her has suffered permanent injuries, a court has heard.

Prosecutors said the child is likely to develop epilepsy and cannot currently walk without help.

Bail was refused to a man charged with attempting to murder the toddler at her home in Bessbrook, County Armagh.

Darren Fagan, 24, denies the charges, claiming that she was dropped while being carried upstairs by her mother.

But ordering him to remain in custody, a high court judge said: "This is an utterly unmeritorious application for bail."

Mr Fagan, of Clonavon Avenue in Portadown, was arrested after the child was discovered in a "lifeless" condition on 19 October last year.

A police patrol had been flagged down and told she was outside the house and had stopped breathing.

Officers performed emergency first aid until an ambulance crew arrived, the court heard.

A prosecutor said the mother told police Mr Fagan had assaulted her daughter by punching her.

When he was detained inside the property he said: "I didn't do nothing."

He was said to have first met the girl's mother through Facebook and travelled to stay at her home that weekend.

'Crouched over bed'

She claimed he had been drinking when the alleged incident occurred after her daughter had been put to bed.

She said the child was unsettled and crying as she looked for medicine.

The child's mother said she heard a sudden noise like a thud and seconds later saw Fagan crouched over her daughter's bed.

"The child wasn't moving and there was a large lump to the side of her head," the prosecutor said.

Detailing the extent of the girl's injuries, the barrister said she sustained multiple fractures and bleeding on the brain.

She had to be put in a medically induced coma and spent two months being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

"I understand that she has suffered permanent injuries and it's likely she will develop epilepsy," the lawyer told the court.

"She also has difficulty moving, she can't walk unaided."

'Cut-throat type defence'

During police interviews Mr Fagan claimed the girl's mother fell from the stairs while holding her daughter.

He also alleged that the woman had been drinking and taking drugs that day.

The prosecutor said blaming the mother was a "cut-throat type defence", and expert evidence would be used to establish the "mechanics" of the incident.

But with such a report expected to take another eight weeks, it was conceded that any trial is unlikely to start until the autumn.

Mr Fagan's legal team based their bail application on the alleged delay in the case.

A defence lawyer said his client has mental health issues which had been "magnified" by being held on remand in Maghaberry Prison on the attempted murder charge.

"He has to face a particular spotlight in a custody environment [as] that's an abhorrent allegation to face," Mr Thompson said.

"He adamantly denies it and is desperate to advance the case to trial to defend himself."

However, refusing bail, the judge said: "It's only because of the intervention of the police and ambulance (staff) no doubt that this child survived at all, but with very grave injuries."

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