Co Tyrone man pleads guilty to hitting son and daughter with belt
A CO Tyrone man has pleaded guilty to hitting his young son and daughter with a belt.
The man, who is in his thirties but cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, admitted charges of child cruelty by wilful ill-treatment and assault in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.
The crimes happened between February and August 2012.
Two additional charges of assaulting the children, who were aged under 10, were withdrawn.
Dungannon Magistrates' Court heard today that a classroom assistant at the boy's primary school noticed he had swelling and bruising to his nose in March 2012.
When she asked what had happened he said his father had hit him in the face.
The school did not report the claim and instead opted to monitor the situation.
Around four months later, the NSPCC contacted police to say an anonymous caller had reported that the two children told her their father beat them with a belt and had shown her marks.
The girl initially denied being beaten but later said her father and step-mother hit her with a belt.
A medical examination found marks on the boy which "could be consistent with belt marks".
Having been removed from the family home, the boy gave a video interview in which he said he and his sister were beaten with a belt by their father and step-mother.
He said he was afraid of his father and alleged his step-mother told both children not to tell anyone about the beatings.
It emerged on one occasion the children returned home from a 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.
When police arrested the father he refused to comment. However when his son's allegations were put to him he insisted he had never beaten his children.
He claimed to have punished them by taking things away or grounding them but had seen his wife hit the children once or twice, and may have left marks.
However, a defence barrister said today "my client accepts he used a belt to punish the children".
Deputy District Judge Austin Kennedy told the man, who was accompanied in court by his wife, to appear for sentencing next month.