Northern Ireland

County Tyrone father given probation for hitting son and daughter with belt

Dungannon Magistrates' Court
Image caption The court heard that the man was classed as being at a high risk of reoffending

A County Tyrone man who admitted beating his children with a belt has been given a combined probation and community service order.

He admitted charges of child cruelty by wilful ill-treatment and assault in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

The offences occurred in 2012.

The NSPCC said the man had "inflicted injuries on his children" and it was "right" he was convicted.

The court had heard that the matter came to police attention after an anonymous call from a concerned member of the public to NSPCC.

"This case shows that it's imperative that adults concerned about a child's welfare do ask hard questions if there are any doubts about any injuries," said Neil Anderson, NSPCC's head of services in Northern Ireland.

"This is especially important in cases where the victim is too young to speak out and their only hope lies with those in positions of authority."

'Beneficial'

Earlier, the court also heard that the man has been classed at a high risk of reoffending, which the defence said was "slightly surprising".

"Clearly significant emotional damage has been caused," the judge said.

He added: "While this is a serious matter, I feel a combination order would be more beneficial to both the defendant and the community."

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his children, was given a 12-month probation order with 100 hours of community service.

Previously, Dungannon Magistrates' Court heard that injuries to the man's son were noticed by a classroom assistant in his primary school.

The boy told her his father had hit him in the face causing the injuries.

The court heard the school decided not to report the incident and opted instead to monitor the situation.

However, social services then attended the school in relation to inquiries into domestic abuse in the children's home setting, and the previous incident was disclosed.

Just over four months later, an anonymous caller said they were told by the two children that their father beat them with a belt.

Afraid

The court heard that his daughter initially said this had not happened, but later claimed both her father and step-mother beat her with a belt.

A medical examination said marks found on one of the children "could be consistent with belt marks".

In a video interview after the children were removed from the home, the son said both he and his sister were beaten with a belt by their father and step-mother.

He added that he was glad he did not have to go home, as he was afraid of his father.

He said his step-mother had told both children they were not to tell anyone about the beatings.

The court heard the father made no comments to police questions when he was arrested and failed to respond to photographs of the children's injuries.

He then told police that his son's allegations were lies and he had never beaten his children, although he accepted he had witnessed his wife strike the children.

In court, a defence barrister said his client accepted he used a belt to punish the children, but disputed that it caused injuries.

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