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Child cruelty charges after toddler found to have ingested cocaine and cannabis

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A man has appeared in court accused of child cruelty offences after a toddler was admitted to hospital following a seizure and found to have ingested cocaine.

Aged in his thirties, but unable to be named to protect he identity of the toddler, is accused of wilfully exposing him in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

It is further alleged the accused was aware the child had suffered serious physical harm as a result of an unlawful act and failed to take such steps to protect him from that

A detective constable told Dungannon Magistrates’ Court the charges could be connected.

She explained on February 9 the toddler was admitted to hospital following “an episode of jerking movements lasting around two minutes”.

The child had initially suffered a choking episode after which he became “floppy” after the incident and lay on the floor for around 10 minutes during which his eyes were half-open.

Having been taken to hospital by ambulance the child was noted to be bright and alert and after a period of observation was discharged.

A toxicology report was received on February 12 which showed the child had cocaine and cannabis in his system.

The accused was arrested along with another person and provided samples for testing as well and his mobile phone was seized, however, he has not supplied the access code.

During interview he confirmed having a drug addiction and while clean for some time, he relapsed but no motivation for this was identified.

He admitted having cocaine and cannabis and no-one else in his household, including his partner, take drugs and did not know he had any or that he had resumed use.

The accused said he had bought a small quantity of cocaine on February 9 and sat at the kitchen table, where he broke it up on the back of his mobile phone and straightened it with a bank card, which he then lost.

In addition he had taken cannabis by a vape the previous day and had done this in the presence of the toddler and other children.

He was unable to explain how the toddler injected cocaine other than to suggest he had sucked the bank card.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan enquired if the other children present at the time – who are all under 13 – were medically checked, but the detective said this has yet to be done.

The judge remarked: “It strikes me any investigations of those children should be carried out immediately to ascertain if they’ve ingested something.”

He also enquired if the house was searched, which the detective confirmed had been done and “nothing was found except an empty bag of cannabis gummy bears which was in the hallway of the property”.

“So something those children could have had access to?” said the judge. “Somebody needs to take control of this and have those children examined immediately. That is a major welfare concern. Despite the appalling nature of what has happened, have police considered all risks to the children?”

The detective confirmed Social Services are onboard and the second person arrested has been released on bail.

There was no objection to the accused being released, subject to strict conditions.

Judge Ranaghan agreed to bail “with reluctance” and setting this at £750 ordered the accused to reside at an address approved by police and Social Services, abide by a curfew and have no contact with the co-accused or any children.

The case will be reviewed on February 21 when Judge Ranaghan said he expects to hear “exactly what has happened with the children to safeguard them going forward”.

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