Friday 22 September 2017

Couple who left MS sufferer, Evelyn Joel, to die in her own filth receive suspended sentence

Eleanor Joel, daughter of the late Evelyn Joel, and her partner, Jonathan Costen
Evelyn Joel, centre, with her daughter Eleanor, grand daughter Jessica and Eleanor' s partner John Costen

By Brendan Furlong

A couple found guilty of manslaughter, through neglect of the woman’s mother have been handed a two year suspended prison sentence.

Eleanor Joel (39), daughter of the late Evelyn Joel, and her partner, Jonathan Costen (41) of 37 Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, had both been found guilty by a jury on a 11-1 majority verdict of the unlawful killing of 59-year-old Evelyn Joel by neglect on January 7, 2006, when they appeared before a previous sitting of Wexford Circuit Criminal Court.

The couple will not serve any jail time on condition they complete 240 hours community service.

The trial had heard from Prosecuting Counsel, Justin Dillon, S.C. that central to the case was that Evelyn Joel had suffered from multiple sclerosis and had been left lying in her own filth and maggots in bed at the home of the accused before been transferred to Wexford General Hospital where she subsequently died.

Detective Garda Martin Brauders told yesterday’s court of having interviewed Jonathan Costen when he said ‘I am sorry for what happened Evelyn. For my part she was neglected by both of us. The neglect went on for two to three weeks. She was not cleaned, nor was her bed. I don’t know about food.’

Det. Brauders also said that Jonathan Costen also said in his statement ‘On that Christmas day she was a bit gaunt, not talking, just saying yes or no. It concerned him for he wanted her to die but not in the house.’

Senior Counsel, Mr. Dillon, said that in a Victim Impact Report, Tom Connolly said ‘even though we were always a close family we were not always together.

‘We found the whole incidences of the trials a whole sickening experience while the family had not received any counselling but looked after each other.

‘The family are very angry and will never forgive for they have never received an apology from the accused. The family found it a whole experience they will never forget.’

Ms Rosario Boyle, S.C. for Elanor Joel, told the court that she had been convicted of manslaughter by neglect which was the first such prosecution in the history of the State.

Judge O Donabhain said that these people would never have been convicted but for their co-operation with the State. If one was dependant on the State Agencies the case would never have started while the prosecution had been supported by their co-operation.

Ms Boyle said it was very clear that Eleanor Joel had a disturbed childhood, with her father drinking and carrying out violence towards her mother.

Judge O Donabhain said the Psychological Report also showed that Eleanor Joel suffered from a high level of social introversion which is one of the factors that mitigated against her from looking for help. He also said that there was nothing in the evidence before the trial to suggest that anyone else should have been before the court.

Mr. Dan Walsh, B.L., for Jonathan Costen, said that he left school at 14 years of age and lived in England until 20 before returning home.

At the time of this, Mr. Walsh said that Costen had been drinking heavily, some six to seven cans of beer every night, while they also had financial difficulties.  He was struggling to cope with the normal demands of every day life, while subsequently had has attended with the HSE Substance Abuse counsellor , with the result he has abstained from alcohol since March 2012.

Judge O Donabhain said that Jonathan Costen has a stronger and more stringent insight into what was happening which is a conclusion from the Probation Report.

In passing sentence Judge O Donabhain described the evidence as gruesome of a terminally ill woman isolated in her own room lying in her own filth and maggots.

He said that the Defence presented the case this happened because of the isolation, abandonment and lack of services.  All of that was set out before the jury and was rejected by the jury. The defendant’s case, he said, was comprehensively gone into. The defence on that level tried to ignore the accused part in this and implicate the Health Board. Their (accused) neglect was their failure in calling for help with such neglect continuous.

Judge O Donabhain also said that regarding the evidence that the help and information from the accused was the key to a successful prosecution. Describing it as an exceptional case he said that in his view this case of gross negligence came about in the main because of the sole isolation of both accused. It’s a case which would have merited a prison sentence

Sentencing both to two years in prison, suspended for two years, Judge O Donabhain ordered that both defendants complete 240 hours community service. He also made it a condition that both should obey conditions set out in Social Welfare Report. For this or any other failure to comply with the Community Service Order or Social Welfare Report this sentence may have to be activated. He also ordered that both remain sober in public.

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