A Co Armagh man who fractured a toddler’s skull because she would not stop crying has failed in a bid to have his 13 and a half year-jail sentence reduced.
Senior judges in Belfast rejected claims that the prison term imposed on Darren Fegan for the drink and drug fuelled attack which inflicted life-changing injuries was manifestly excessive.
Fegan, 30, who is originally from Lurgan, was said to have punched the two-year-old child while visiting her mother’s Bessbrook home in October 2014 because he wanted to watch the X-Factor television show in peace.
Dismissing his appeal against sentence, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “Where significant force is applied to a young child with intent to cause that child grievous bodily harm, the increased likelihood of significant damage to the child renders the conduct itself highly culpable.”
Fegan, formerly of Clonavon Avenue in Portadown, had originally been charged with attempted murder.
But that was left on the books after he admitted the lesser offence of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
The Court of Appeal heard the attack happened after the child’s mother had gone to obtain Ibuprofen medicine.
She returned to the living room and noticed Fegan was no longer there. As she headed upstairs she heard a sudden thump, like a single thud, and her daughter stop crying.
The gate to her daughter’s bedroom was open, the light was on, and Fegan was standing crouched over the child’s cot.
At that stage the child appeared lifeless.
Fegan tried to stop her leaving the house after she lifted her daughter and ran downstairs for help.
According to evidence in the case his knuckles were raw, with blood between his fingers.
At first he claimed the young victim’s mother had been drinking, “cracked up” after seeing a text to him from another woman and dropped her child on stairs.
None of this was true, however, and Fegan later accepted his guilt.
“He admitted that he punched the child who was in bed as she would not stop crying,” Sir Declan said.
“He demonstrated how he hit the victim and it is clear that he violently assaulted the child with extreme force.”
The toddler sustained horrific injuries, including a brain haemorrhage.
She requires the use of equipment such as a wheelchair, has speech and visual impairments and is at risk of developing epilepsy, the court heard.
Details of a previous attack by Fegan on a 20-month-old baby boy in 2012 were also disclosed.
He punched that child to the side of the head after knocking his mother to the ground and stamping on her leg.
Ruling on the challenge, Sir Declan stressed how Fegan tried to blame the young girl’s mother for her injuries.
“In essence this was an attempt by him to pervert the course of justice,” the judge said.
Describing the jail term imposed as “stiff”, he concluded: “We do not consider that the sentence was manifestly excessive and the appeal is dismissed.”