Northern Ireland

Man punched toddler 'so he could watch X-Factor in peace'

Darren Fagan Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Darren Fagan, 29, has an 'extensive criminal record' - including convictions for attacking another partner's child

A man who punched a baby girl because she was crying while he was trying to watch the X-Factor on TV has been told he will be sent to prison next month.

Belfast Crown Court heard Darren Eamonn Fagan had inflicted "life-changing'' injuries when he attacked the toddler in Bessbrook, County Armagh, in 2014.

Fagan, 29, from Portadown, had been due to stand trial for attempted murder and grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent.

But he recently pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of GBH with intent.

'Criminal record'

At the time of his re-arraignment, the prosecution accepted his guilty plea but asked that the attempted murder charge be "left on the books in the usual terms''.

On Friday, Belfast Crown Court heard Fagan had told a probation officer that he "punched the child to her head as she would not stop crying''.

It was alleged he claimed he wanted peace to watch X-Factor on television.

The judge was told that Fagan, formerly of Clonavon Avenue, Portadown, has an "extensive criminal record'' - including convictions for violence.

One of those convictions was for assaulting the 20-month-old child of a previous partner.

At the time of the Bessbrook assault on 19 October 2014, the young victim was aged two years and four months.

At that point, her mother, who was separated from the child's father, had met Fagan about "eight to 10 times''.

He had stayed over at her house in Bessbrook on the night before the assault and it was alleged that, on the day of the attack, Fagan started drinking cider at about 13:30 BST.

'Sudden noise'

The child had been with her father during the day, and when she arrived home later that evening, she was said to be in "good form", according to the account her mother gave to police.

However, the mother told officers that the child became unsettled when she was put to bed, describing the toddler's face as "red and sweating" when she went to check on her.

After going to the kitchen to look for medicine, she said she noticed that Fagan was no longer in the living room.

As she went upstairs, the mother alleged that her daughter "stopped crying" and she heard a "sudden noise... like a thud".

A prosecution barrister told the court: "She says that within three seconds of hearing the thud she was in the room and saw the defendant standing up, crouched over her daughter's bed.

"She noticed a large lump on the left side of her head."

The barrister added: "She shouted at him: 'Oh my God, you've hit her!'

"And the defendant replied: 'No, it's not what it looks like.'

"She ran with her daughter down the stairs towards the front door but the defendant would not let her out saying: "I can explain.'.

'Brain haemorrhage'

The barrister described how the mother managed to get out the front door with the toddler and carried her up street to a neighbour's house.

"The child was violently vomiting at this stage,'' the senior prosecutor told the judge.

"The mother tried to use her mobile phone but it had no charge. She told people at the house to ring for an ambulance."

The court heard the child was brought into the house where a police officer performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her, and then she was transferred by ambulance to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

Doctors discovered that the toddler had sustained severe head injuries, including multiple fractures and a brain haemorrhage.

The court heard that the child's future prognosis is yet to be fully determined by medics but she will require "intervention and support in the future''.

The judge was also told there was a "significant risk of developing epilepsy'' in the future.

It was alleged that when police eventually caught up with Fagan, he told them: "I am the one you are looking for.''

However, he later tried to blame the child's injuries on her mother.

'Lost self-control'

The prosecution said that after his arrest, Fagan became "violent and started head-butting the inside of the car" en route to the police station.

A defence barrister told the court there was "no premeditation'' in his attack on the toddler and that Fagan had lost self-control in an "explosive incident".

He said that Fagan experienced an "absolutely wretched" upbringing, having spent most of his childhood in foster accommodation.

The judge was told Fagan was forced into taking heroin by his mother at a young age and on the night in question had taken a "cocktail of drink and drugs''.

He said Fagan had expressed his remorse for the attack in a letter which was handed to the judge, and is to be passed on to the victim's family.

The judge remanded him back into custody and said he will be sentenced on 9 June.