A man who punched a five-day-old girl in the face at a supermarket has been fined after being convicted of assault.
David Hardy, 64, was told to pay a total of £1,500 after hitting Elsie Temple as she lay asleep in her carry cot inside a trolley.
The attack happened at a Tesco store when Elsie’s mother, Amy Duckers, beckoned to a friend to look at her “beautiful baby”. Duckers told the court Hardy had rushed over and punched her daughter with a “clenched fist”.
She told Manchester magistrates court: “He came rushing up and as I looked over my shoulder he punched her in the face. I heard the slap of the punch as well. I said: ‘You have hit my baby,’ and he said: ‘No I didn’t.’”
Duckers said Elsie had instantly cried out. The attack on 5 September happened in front of her older daughter, Libby Brown, seven, who was said to be hysterical and was heard asking: “Is she going to die?”
Security guards at the supermarket in Baguley, Greater Manchester, summoned police and paramedics, the court heard. Elsie was taken to Wythenshawe hospital and kept in overnight.
In a Facebook post that went viral, Duckers, a 27-year-old carer, described the attack and called Hardy “sick, twisted and vile”. She said the incident had left her “absolutely distraught”.
Hardy, a company director, at first denied hitting the child before claiming he believed that she was a doll. He later apologised.
In a police interview, Hardy said: “I saw a young girl hanging over the shopping trolley. I honestly thought it was her dolly. I said: ‘I’m going to wake your baby up.’ It looked like a doll to me. It wasn’t moving. I didn’t punch it; I just tapped it in its face.”
He told the court that he curled in his fingers and “flicked” at what he thought was a doll. He added: “I thought I was just going to make the girl laugh. I don’t know why I thought that.”
He added: “I can remember the mother crying and quite rightly so. I would be devastated myself. It was like a state of disbelief. Her husband came and I said: ‘I’m really sorry, pal.’”
Hardy, who had pleaded not guilty to common assault, was fined £900, and ordered to pay £100 compensation and £500 towards prosecution costs. Elsie’s family reacted with fury in the public gallery when the district judge, Sam Goozee, announced he was prepared to fine the defendant rather than give him a community sentence.
The judge said he accepted that the attack had been an isolated incident and “completely out of character”.
Finding him guilty, Goozee told Hardy he found his explanation for the attack implausible. He said: “I’m satisfied, so that I’m sure, that at the point you struck out you did so … knowing Elsie was a baby, not a doll.”