A TRU student and father testified in provincial court Wednesday the first two swipes he took at his daughter’s backside were intended as a spanking to settle her down.
Stanley Okeh said the third time he hit three-year-old Talia Hart, striking her on the back with his open palm, was an attempt to stop her escaping as he changed a diaper.
Okeh is charged with assault causing bodily harm for the events of July 26 last year, when he was left alone overnight with his daughter for the first time.
Talia’s mother, Clarissa, took her daughter to hospital the next day after she discovered red, swollen marks on Talia’s thigh and back.
Okeh took the stand in his defence. He told judge Stella Frame that he was not frustrated after Talia woke him around 10:30 p.m. to change her diaper.
When he told her to go get her diaper and wipes, she instead ran upstairs, he testified.
When he started changing Talia’s diaper “she was wriggling and kicking her legs saying ‘I want my mommy.’”
“The kicking and wriggling was too much,” said Okeh. “I gave her two slaps.”
Talia settled for a short while. But when he tried to use a second wipe on her bottom, she flipped over to her hands and knees and tried to crawl away.
“It happened so fast. I wanted to stop her by pressing her on the ground before she could get away.”
His lawyer, Sheldon Tate, said the resulting slap on the back was “extremely regrettable,” but an accident. Trying to press her to the ground, he struck her using too much force, which resulted in palm print across her back.
There was no lasting injury to the girl.
Tate said the first two spanks Okeh used fall within rights set out in the Criminal Code, defined as “using force by way of correction” by a parent or someone standing in the place of a parent.
Under cross-examination by Crown lawyer Katie Bouchard, Okeh said the blow across Talia’s back was perpendicular to her spine. But that was only after shown photographs. He earlier appeared to say he struck her along the length of her back.
“It’s clearly not an accident,” Bouchard said. “He meant to hit her. Perhaps the harm is more than he intended.”
Bouchard also argued that while Okeh may be the girl’s biological father, he is not listed on the birth certificate, has no court-ordered access and saw her only occasionally. Therefore, he lacked the right of a parent, she argued.
Bouchard also said Okeh chose to hit first, without verbally correcting his daughter, who could speak.
Okeh is studying to become a doctor, following in the footsteps of his father in Nigeria.
Frame reserved a decision to a later date, which will be set Sept. 27.