A former Lurgan man man who punched a “defenceless” baby girl to the head after claiming she “wouldn’t stop crying” in her cot will be jailed next month, a judge ruled on Friday.
Belfast Crown Court heard that as a result of the unprovoked attack by Darren Eamonn Fegan, the impact on the young child and her parents had been “life changing” and her future prognosis is yet to be fully determined by doctors.
Fegan, formerly of Clonavon Avenue, Portadown, told a probation officer that he attacked the child because he wanted peace to “watch the X-Factor”.
The 29-year-old had been due to stand trial charged with attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
The offences related to an assault on the toddler at her home in Bessbrook, Co Armagh on Sunday, October 19, 2014.
However, Fegan was recently re-arrainged and pleaded guilty to the charge of grievous bodily harm with intent.
His guilty plea was accepted by the prosecution who asked that the attempted murder charge be “left on the books in the usual terms”.
The court heard that at the time of the attack the girl was aged just two years and four months who her mum lovingly described in a victim impact statement as a “wee granny”.
Prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said that the mother was separated from the girl’s father and at time was with Fegan “who she had met in person eight to ten times”.
The mother told police that the girl’s father had dropped her home on Sunday evening and she was “in good form” but had then become unsettled when she was put to bed, describing her face as “red and sweating” when she went to check on her.
After going to the kitchen to look for Ibruprofen child medicine, she said she noticed that Fagan was no longer in the living room and it was as she went upstairs that her daughter “stopped crying” and she heard a “sudden noise...like a thud”.
“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.”
“She shouted at him ‘oh my God you’ve hit her’ and the defendant replied ‘no, it’s not what it looks like’.
A paeditrician who examined the child at Daisy Hill Hospital said she had a “large bulge to the left side of her head and had sustained an acute subdural haemorrhage (bleeding on the brain).”
The court heard doctors said the child would require “intervention and support in the future” and there was also a “significant risk of developing epilepsy” in the future.
The senior prosecutor told the judge that Fegan was “interviewed extensively by police” who claimed the child had been screaming and the mother and fallen down the stairs with the child who hit her head.
Fegan “mendaciously” claimed throughout his interviews that the mother had been “drinking and taking drugs”. But Mr Murphy said that was not the case and in fact the mother was pregnant at the time.
“These allegations were traumatic to the girl’s mother. For a considerable period he distanced himself and put responsibility for what happened to the child on her mother.”
The court heard Fegan told a probation officer that he “punched the child to her head as she would not stop crying”, claiming he wanted peaced to sit with the child’s mother and watch X Factor on television.
Judge Miller was told that Fegan had an “extensive criminal record’’ including convictions for violence.
The Probation Service had assessed Fegan as “dangerous’’ who posed a “high likelihood of reoffending and a significant risk of serious harm’’ to the public in the future”.
Defence counsel Ciaran Mallon QC told the court that there was “no premeditation” on Fegan’s behalf in assaulting the child, describing it as “explosive incident” during which the defendant had lost self control.
“He had no hatred for the child whatsoever. In fact, in the days before his incident he took the mother and child to McDonald’s and they had played in the park.”
He said that Fegan had had an “absolutely wretched childhood and upbringing” and from the age of two onwards had been spent in either foster homes or secure foster accommodation. This resulted, said Mr Mallon, in Fegan having “no coping mechanism” in dealing with his problems and his addictions.
The judge said that a copy of Fegan’s letter to the court would be given to the victim’s family, adding: “This is a case of considerable importance and I wish to consider not only the papers already before the court but other material handed into today and I will deliver my sentencing remarks as soon as I can.”
Remanding Fegan back into custody, Judge Miller said he would pass sentence on Friday, June 9.