County Tyrone father admits beating son and daughter with belt
A man in his 30s from County Tyrone has pleaded guilty to beating his son and daughter, who were under 10, with a belt.
The man admitted charges of child cruelty by wilful ill-treatment and assault in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.
The offences occurred on dates between 28 February and 10 August 2012.
Two additional charges of assaulting the children were withdrawn.
Dungannon Magistrates Court heard the little boy was in his primary school on 23 March 2012, and a classroom assistant noticed he had swelling and bruising to his nose.
She asked how this had happened and the boy said he had been doing his homework and was finding it very hard.
His father had hit him in the face causing the injuries.
Whilst this was noted, the school did not report it and opted to monitor the situation.
Just over four months later on 7 August 2012 the NSPCC contacted police to say an anonymous caller had reported the two children had told her their father beat them with a belt, and proceeded to show marks.
On being spoken to initially the little girl said this had not happened to her, but later claimed both her father and step-mother beat her with a belt.
The children were medically examined and a report found marks on the boy "could be consistent with belt marks".
Having been removed from the family home, the little boy gave a video-interview in which he stated both he and his sister were beaten with a belt by their father and step-mother.
He stated he was glad he did not have to go home as he was afraid of his father.
He further disclosed his step-mother had told both children they were not to tell anyone of the beatings.
It emerged on one occasion the children returned home from the park and their step-mother asked what they had talked about.
The children claimed they "had told the other boys and girls about the beatings", and this led the step-mother to beat them again with a belt.
Police arrested the father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his children, and during interview he made no comment replies to all questions.
When his son's allegations were put to him he said it was all lies and he had never beaten his children.
He claimed to have punished them by taking things away or grounding them.
However, he accepted he had witnessed his wife strike the children once or twice, and it may have left marks.
In court, a defence barrister clarified, "My client accepts he used a belt to punish the children".
The judge ruled a pre-sentence report would be required.
The man, who was accompanied in court by his wife, was ordered to appear for sentencing next month.
He was warned by the judge: "I strongly advise you to co-operate with probation. These are very, very serious charges."