The mum of a six-year-old boy who had soap put in his mouth by a man he swore at today said her son could have been seriously injured in the assault.
Lynne Cook’s son Alfi was playing in a park near his Washington home when 23-year-old Ryan Birtwell claims he saw him try to kick an old man’s walking stick away.
After remonstrating with the youngster, Alfi repeatedly swore at Birtwell, telling him to “f*** off”, to which he threatened “stop swearing or I’ll wash your mouth out with soap”.
Birtwell then went to a nearby shop, bought a three-bar pack of soap before returning to the park, pinning Alfi down and rubbing a bar of the cleaning product onto his mouth.
Admitting assault at a Sunderland Magistrates’ Court hearing last week, Birtwell was handed a 12-month conditional discharge.
Read more: Man tried to wash foul-mouthed boy’s mouth out with soap – after child tried to kick old man’s stick away.
Lynne, 37, today defended her son, saying that he was immediately punished when she was told he had sworn, but added that she is still shocked that a grown man assaulted him.
“I know Ryan and his mam, we used to be friends,” said Lynne, of Waskerley Road in Barmston, who also has issues with Birtwell’s version of events which was given in court.
“If he had come to me and told me that this had happened I would have punished Alfi, which is what I did anyway.
“When the police got involved, I got asked one of the officers to tell him off and try to frighten him so that he won’t do it again.
“He plays with teenagers in the park and he copies them and although he is not sweet and innocent, it’s up to me to punish him.”
At the end of the day, Alfi is the victim, but Ryan has been made to look like the victim and he isn’t.Lynne Cook
Lynne was only told about the incident by Alfi, a pupil at Barmston Primary School, the day after it happened.
And she says the fact that Alfi suffers from numerous health conditions including eczema and dyspraxia, while he is also allergic to nut oils, could have meant the situation might have been a lot worse.
“Alfi was petrified by what happened,” said Lynne, also mum to Zac, 12, and Codi, five.
“When he has a bang to the head, he can have fits and seizures. He’s also being checked out to see if he’s got epilepsy.
“This could have been a lot worse.”
Lynne said she is happy that Birtwell has been convicted of the assault and hopes that a line can be drawn under the whole incident, despite being upset by some of the comments about the story posted online.
“I’ve seen some of the reaction to the case on Facebook and I can’t believe it, saying my son’s teeth should be pulled out and things like that.
“Alfi has been chastised for swearing and I hope Ryan learns his lesson too.
“At the end of the day, Alfi is the victim, but Ryan has been made to look like the victim and he isn’t.
“He has a criminal record now for assaulting a child which is punishment enough, but I had to defend my son.”