Monday 23 January 2017

Father gets maximum term for horrific abuse of children

Fiona Ferguson

Published 28/07/2010 | 05:00

Picture posed
Picture posed

THE father of children who wanted him to be given a "999-year sentence" for the horrific abuse they suffered at his hands has been jailed for six years.

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The 42-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury in April, after a 13-day trial, of neglecting four of his children and three counts of assaulting each of his sons on dates between January and September 2007.

The man, who has convictions in the UK, was going by an assumed name and was arrested in 2007.

Yesterday, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne gave him the maximum seven-year sentence permissible on the counts of neglect and wilful assault of the eldest two boys. But she suspended the final year and ordered that the man enter a good-behaviour bond and undergo probation on release.

She imposed concurrent sentences of six and five years in relation to the other children.

The five children, three boys and two girls, were aged between four and 11 when they were taken into care.

During the trial the court heard graphic evidence from social workers and foster parents of the condition of the children when they were taken into care. They were described as being filthy and inadequately dressed for cold weather, with some wearing clothes several sizes too small for them. They ate hungrily when given food.

The youngest child was "walking alive with head lice" and she and her older sister were not toilet trained

A former neighbour of the family gave evidence that the girls were scruffy and would walk around outside with bare feet. She said they were always hungry and feeding them was "like feeding Oliver Twist".

The three boys gave evidence during the trial that they were hit by their father, sometimes with belts and shoes, and the youngest boy described how he was hit "even when I was good".

In a victim impact report, one child asked that his father receive a "999-year sentence in prison or have his head chopped off", while a daughter asked the judge to "make everything right" and keep her father away from children.

The judge said the evidence in the case "paints an appalling picture" and the victim impact reports outlined the "appalling consequences the offences".

She said she had never come across a situation where children were so damaged by assaults and a failure to provide.

The judge said she considered foster parents such as those who gave evidence in this case to be "saints, unsung heroes who never get credit".

She said matters in relation to food and clothing could have been observed by the accused and said he must take his share of the responsibility. She took into account the fact that he co-operated with gardai.



Arrest

The court heard, during the trial, that the accused was arrested in 2007 on foot of a warrant relating to another case. Detective Garda Leon Kenny told the court he contacted the accused by telephone and the man and his family attended at a garda station.

Det Gda Kenny said care arrangements were put in place for the children.

Social workers who were at the garda station gave evidence at the trial that the mother of the children was dressed appropriately for the cold day but that the children were not.

Their father was interviewed and admitted smacking the children and said he might have gone overboard in relation to the eldest child but denied hitting them with implements.

The eldest son was 11 when taken into care. His foster mother said he "ate every meal as if it was his last" and was an angry child. He had the reading age of a child in junior infants.

The second eldest boy was 10 when taken into care and he gave evidence of having been hit, kicked and punched by his father. His foster mother gave evidence he had no socks or underwear, ate hungrily and would put his arms around the plate as if to stop people from taking it. He did not understand that it was necessary to change his underwear or shower every day. He was only able to read the most basic books and could not spell. He said he did not love his father.

The second-youngest child was five when he went into care. The eldest girl was eight and her sister was four. Their foster mother gave evidence that they were filthy and had not been changed in days when she first saw them. They weren't toilet trained and their hair was dirty. The elder girl had "no education to speak of" and the younger girl was "walking alive with lice". The court was told the accused was a "family man" who brought home money and did not go out drinking.

Irish Independent

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