Friday 22 September 2017

Both parents sexually abused their young children, judge rules

Details of the abuse were contained in a child care project report. Stock picture
Details of the abuse were contained in a child care project report. Stock picture
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A family of young children were sexually abused by both their parents, a judge found in shocking court proceedings outlined in a new report.

Evidence was heard of prolonged and serious neglect of the children, aged between three and eight.

Three of the children made statements suggesting their father had sexually abused them in the company of their mother.

The allegations were strenuously denied by lawyers for the parents, who challenged district court orders placing the children into care.

However, a judge rejected the challenge, finding on the balance of probabilities the claims were true.

Details of the troubling case emerged in reports published today by the Child Care Law Reporting Project, an independent body established to examine and report on child-care proceedings in the courts.

The project followed several cases involving children as they unfolded in the courts over the course of several months.

In the case involving the five abused siblings, the court heard both parents came from abusive backgrounds. The mother had herself been sexually abused, while the man's father had convictions for child sex abuse.

The court heard detailed evidence of prolonged and serious neglect of the children.

There were concerns about inappropriate adults visiting the home. The four oldest children also exhibited disturbed behaviour and three had intellectual disabilities.

The court heard evidence of sexualised behaviour by three of the children, all of whom made statements indicating they were sexually abused.

In relation to two of these children, the judge concluded the mother knew of the abuse and actively participated.

The family at the centre of the case lived in a major city. No details which could identify them can be disclosed, due to reporting restrictions. The children were taken into voluntary care in April 2013 and full care orders were made by a district court judge in June 2016.

The parents appealed against the care orders, seeking the return of the children. This was opposed by Tusla, the child and family agency, which also lodged its own appeal in relation to access arrangements, which it sought to reduce significantly. Tusla asked the court to make a finding of fact that the parents and another person had sexually abused the children.

The lengthy appeal heard 23 witnesses on behalf of Tusla, plus evidence from a guardian ad litem and the parents. DVDs of interviews with the children were admitted in evidence.

The judge acknowledged both parents had suffered trauma in their own childhoods, but refused their appeal. Referring to the mother, the judge said: "I do not accept she would co-operate with social workers or other professionals if her children were returned to her care. She has never done so in the past and there is no evidence she has changed."

Irish Independent

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