Man accused of leaving toddler with brain injury is denied bail

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A man accused of trying to kill a little girl who suffered permanent brain damage in the alleged attack has a previous conviction for assaulting a toddler, a judge has heard.

During an unsuccessful bail application at Newry Magistrates Court, a detective constable revealed that as well as having an “extensive history of domestic violence,” 25-year-old Darren Fagan has a conviction for assaulting the 20-month-old child of a previous partner.

Fagan, from Clonavon Avenue in Portadown, but originally from the Craigavon area, was appearing via videolink from Maghaberry Prison where he is in custody accused of attempting to murder a two-year-old girl in her Bessbrook home on 19 October last year.

Objecting to the bail application, DC Lewis described how a police patrol found the “lifeless” little girl “lying outside the property, not breathing” so an officer performed CPR and emergency first aid until paramedics arrived.

The other officer meanwhile asked the mum what had happened and she claimed “ that b****** was punching her.”

Fagan was arrested inside the property and declared “I didn’t do nothing.”

The little girl was initially taken to Daisy Hill Hospital but was transferred to the intensive care unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital where doctors put her into a medically induced coma after they uncovered she had sustained multiple skull fractures and bleeding onto her brain.

The officer told the court that an MRI scan showed “marked areas or brain damage” and that police had expert reports indicating she had suffered “permanent injuries.”

When she was asked about what had happened, the little girl’s mum told police her daughter had been dropped home by her father “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 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 cry” and she heard a “sudden 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,” said the officer adding that she had described noticing 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,’” claimed the officer.

Arrested and interviewed eight times, Fagan claimed he had been in the living room and saw the little girl falling down the stairs.

The detective however told the court it was the police view there were “numerous discrepancies” in Fagan’s accounts, highlighting that he claimed to have been sitting in two different positions, that the girl had hit the wall and the skirting board.

The officer also claimed that Fagan had become so aggressive toward both officers and his own solicitor during interviews that police had been compelled to handcuff him.

He highlighted that images taken by a police photographer who visited the scene showed it was not possible to see the stairs from where Fagan claimed he had been and that medical evidence suggested her injuries were not consistent with a fall but rather a “severe traumatic incident.”

DC Lewis said in addition to medical reports already obtained, the investigation team had instructed an independent consultant paediatric neurosurgeon to give his opinion as well, adding that the report would be available by 5 August “at the latest.”

He told the court police were objecting to Fagan being released as he might interfere with or intimidate the witnesses.

Fagan’s defence solicitor said he had attended all of the interviews, declaring that his client had not been aggressive to him at any stage.

He also lambasted delays in the case which had resulted in Fagan been held on remand since his arrest, criticising the police and PPS for not meeting previously stated targets.

The solicitor claimed that Fagan had been “consistent” in maintaining the little girl had fallen down the stairs and suggested the police were seeking a further report as their evidence to date was “inconclusive.”

When Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare refused the bail application, Fagan himself shouted out that it was “a joke” and stormed from the videolink room.

Remanding Fagan in continuing custody to appear again on 15 July, Judge O’Hare said if there were to be another application for bail at the High Court, Fagan’s “lack of respect for the court” should be noted.