November 7, 2013
The case was heard at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

The case was heard at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

A Judge has said he could not send a man to prison after he admitted shaking his baby daughter causing her brain damage and cracking her ribs.

Shane McCahill, 21, appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court and admitted three counts of assault causing harm to the baby.

McCahill, of Ramelton, shook the baby girl on three occasions, twice with his hands and once in her pram.

Investigating Garda Joe McManus said the accused was babysitting the child on May 19th, 2011 when she took ill.

The man placed the baby on the sofa and she was sleeping but she began to suffer convulsions.

He called an ambulance and they were rushed to Letterkenny General Hospital.

The child was later transferred to Temple Street Children’s Hospital where older injuries were noted.

Members of social services along with doctors carried out examinations and decided that the injuries were none accidental.

The father of the child then made an admission that he shook the little girl on three separate occasions because he could not get her to stop crying.

The man was arrested, made the admissions and has since received full psychiatric evaluation and counseling.

The court also heard how the man rarely goes out and has also tried to take his own life.

The court heard how the child’s parents had been in a relationship since they were just fifteen years old but they had split up before the injuries were caused to the child.

Despite the split, the man still had a very active part in the child’s upbringing and regularly babysat for the child’s mother.

Judge John O’Hagan, who gave an order that the accused could be named but that the names of his former partner or their child could not, invited the injured child’s mother to give evidence.

He asked her if he thought her former boyfriend meant to hurt their daughter.

The woman replied that she honestly couldn’t say.

The judge then asked if he thought an occasion will ever arise when the man will be able to see his daughter unsupervised?

Again the woman said she did not know but said he did now have supervised access when the little girl stayed with his parents at weekends from Friday night until Sunday night.

The accused sat face down with his hands in his head throughout the case while his former partner sobbed at times on the other side of the courtroom.

Barrister for the accused, Ms Charlotte Simpson, instructed by Frank Dorrian solicitor, said the accused felt sick and ashamed of what he had done and would have to live with it for the rest of his life.

She said the case was unique and that the accused was and still is a good father.

She added that the little girl’s dad was still her hero and she ran to him every weekend and hugged him every time he stayed with her.

Judge John O’Hagan said that having heard all the evidence he said there was no way he was imposing a custodial sentence.

He referred to the lack of intent, the reports which suggest he is unlikely to offend again and also his good relationship with his little girl.

“This is a very emotional case. It’s a tragic case of a dad who lost it.

“He was faced with a situation of a little girl crying and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. He picked her up twice and shook her but of course that didn’t keep her quiet. He’s 21. What experience of fatherhood does a person have of that age? I don’t know. It’s very stressful for anyone.

“I’m sure he had no idea what he was doing but the consequences are rather serious. A nine week old baby is like putty and this happened. I have no doubt he did not intend this to happen.

“The upset and crying of the baby was driving him mad. I know now that he knows it was the wrong thing to do but I don’t think he will ever do it again,” he said.

The judge added that the man will have to live with the social stigma of what happened and knowing everyday that he caused these injuries to his little girl.

He referred to the psychiatric report which showed a lack of intent in the incidents by the accused.

Judge O’Hagan said he also perhaps faced the situation of one day having to tell his daughter what he did to her.

“How would you explain to the little girl where daddy had gone – daddy has gone to prison for 12 months for shaking you when you were crying,” he said.

He sentenced the man to one year in prison on each charge to run concurrently but ordered that he jail sentence be replaced by 150 hours community service.

The accused sat in court crying comforted by his mother and father while the child’s mother was consoled by two female friends.