A Newry man who severely injured his teenage daughter by dragging her by the hair from an underpass in front of horrified onlookers told police he was a “a free man of the land” and did not consent to being arrested “for assaulting his own property”.
The 54-year-old – who has not been identified in order to protect the young victim – appeared before Newry Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm, resisting police and criminal damage.
Outlining a timeline of the incident, the prosecution stated that on May 21, at around 10.40pm, police received a report of a young girl being dragged by an older male near the subway in William Street.
Police responded immediately and detained the male, who resisted officers. They then spoke with the female privately; she identified herself and told them she was 17-years-old and that the male was her father.
She reported that she had been out for the day at a baby shower in the city and was returning to her father’s home address. She stated that the defendant had approached her in the nearby subway on William Street.
She also disclosed that her father hit her on the back of the head and then assaulted her by punching her with a closed fist. She said her father then continued to drag her by her hair along Boat Street and Chapel Street while screaming at her.
The victim was “extremely distressed and asked him continuously to stop as her nose started to bleed”.
However, the defendant continued to assault her and yell to get up anytime she fell to the ground. Witnesses in the area tried to intervene and asked the defendant to stop and he yelled at them to mind your own business, that “she is my property”.
Police attended and observed bruising and blood to the injured party’s face. She was then taken to Daisy Hill Hospital as she complained at lightheadedness.
Police attended the hospital where she was put in a neck brace due to head and neck injuries.
She reported that her father had damaged her handbag in the course of the assault.
The defendant was arrested for assault occasioning actual bodily harm and resisting police and conveyed to custody.
At the time of arrest, he identified himself as “a free man of the land” and stated that “he did not consent to being arrested for assaulting his own property”.
The victim had suffered from concussion; had two black eyes, busted nose, bruising and swelling to her nose and collarbone, lump in her head, and covered in bruises and scratches all over her body, and was in extreme pain.
The defendant did not engage with police and was silent during interview when the allegations were put to him.
However, when brought in front of the custody sergeant to be charged, he stated: “I’m embarrassed by the incident, I deeply regret it. I did not realise the injuries. It was not my intent to injure my daughter. She had blood in her legs when I first met her and her eyes were glassy. I am very strict when she is out in company. I had not seen her in five hours. It does not excuse what I did. I did not realise the injuries. I do regret that.”
The defendant’s solicitor said up until that point his client had “presented as a very good father and provider and was on very good terms with all his children”.
“She went out down town, and couldn’t be contacted. And at the time he was out looking for her [and she was] in an underpass when he did find her. This is when he laid hands on her and began to drag her home, and assaulted her and it’s for that period of time that he can’t offer any explanation.”
The defence said the set of facts “would be repugnant to any father, or indeed any person who would consider why a father would do that to his daughter”.
He added that “this young girl sees no form of reconciliation on the horizon” and that his client “recognises that the girl is traumatised and that his actions have caused possibly irreparable damage to what was a good and loving relationship between the father and the daughter”.
District Judge Eamon King made particular reference to the 54-year-old’s comments when confronted by members of the public and arrested.
“There is something that hasn’t been addressed in any of the documentation that has been placed before the court…the expression he used when he was challenged by members of the public when assaulting his daughter, ‘she’s my property, I’m a free man, I can do what I like with my property’ and nowhere in any of these reports, has that been addressed or looked at.
“I’m going to say, plainly, a free man is someone who writes his own rules, someone who doesn’t comply with the rules of a normal democratic society, and someone who thinks he can do anything.”
District Judge King said sentencing was not easy and “I’ll have to live with the consequences of how I deal with you today”, as he issued the defendant with an enhanced combination order of 100 hours community service and one year on probation.
A restraining order was already in place until June 23, which the judge felt was unnecessary “in the hope that over that period of time, whatever you have to do you will do, to repair the situation, and it’s only you that can do that”.
He added: “I don’t expect your daughter to have to make any first steps – it has to be to you. And I hope that she can see it in her heart to allow you the opportunity to demonstrate that, if you had your life over again, you wouldn’t be in a frame of mind you were in on that night and you certainly wouldn’t treat her, or any other female that you come into contact with, the way you did that night.”