A father in his 30s has been handed 120 hours' community service and put on probation for nine months after hitting two of his children with a leather belt to “teach them discipline."
The man, who is not being named to protect the identity of his children, appeared in Magistrate’s Court facing two charges of grave and criminal assault, which he admitted.
The physical punishments first came to light in October 2018, when one of the children started talking about their father striking them on the bottom with the leather end of his belt.
Legal Adviser Paul Lee said neither of the children, who were over the age of 10 at the time of the incident, sustained injuries following the assault.
The father, who had no previous convictions of any kind, admitted the offence in February 2019. He said he had done so to teach the children right from wrong, and discipline. He also confessed waving his belt at the children on a separate occasion in order to scare them.
Pictured: Advocate Francesca Pinel was defending the father-of-three.
Advocate Francesca Pinel, defending, said the father had not assaulted the children in cold blood. She said that he had been sitting in the lounge of his house with his wife and mother-in-law when he heard the children break something and fight in the kitchen.
Advocate Pinel said the father had subsequently hit them with the belt to discipline them, as it was the way he had been brought up, but that he recognised this wasn’t appropriate in Jersey.
She said he didn’t hold them down while hitting them and spoke to them afterwards, saying he didn’t want them to fight. “He didn’t want to harm them,” Advocate Pinel said. “He wanted to show them he was serious about them not fighting and getting along…He regrets his actions.”
She told Court that the father, had left the family home since the incident, but still communicated with his wife daily and remained “hopeful” they would get back together. She also said he had started Adapt Domestic Abuse Prevention Training, which helps men who want to stop their abusive behaviour.
Pictured: The Assistant Magistrate said children shouldn't be frightened at home.
Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris said the use of the belt was an aggravating factor in the case. “As a parent you are in a position to be caring and … home is a place of safety for the children,” he added. “They shouldn’t be frightened.”
He said that the fact none of the children had sustained injuries suggested he hadn’t used “considerable force” but warned the father this could be something he would go to prison for.
He explained that while the separate assaults had taken place on the same occasion, they should be sentenced separately.
He told the man each assault could carry a three-month prison sentence. However, having “look[ed] at the bigger picture, the longer term and the welfare of the family”, he opted for community service, with 60 hours for each assault, making a total of 120.
“If you commit any offence whilst there is work outstanding you will be back in court,” he warned the father. “There is no reason to believe you can’t manage that.”
He also put the man on probation for nine months and urged him to use that time to work on himself and his family.
“Nobody likes to see a family in court. Violence on children is unacceptable,” the Assistant Magistrate said. “This is not a smack it’s a lot more than that. If you remain living in Jersey, and you are more than welcome to do so, you have to make sure you are aware of what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
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