News Courts

Monday 22 September 2014

Mother who smothered her son gets suspended sentence

Anne Sharkey

Published 08/07/2014 | 02:30

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Anthony Ward (8)

A woman who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her son has been given a seven-year suspended sentence.

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Diane Ward (44) of Harrison Place, Charleville, Co Cork, admitted smothering her son Anthony (8) because she felt that there would be no one to look after him if she took her own life.

Ms Ward appeared in court last March where she pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter at their Cork home on September 3, 2012.

Timothy O'Leary SC, prosecuting, reminded the court yesterday that Ms Ward had taken a significant overdose prior to the death of her son. She had left a suicide note with the words 'bury us together'.

Earlier this year, the court heard there had been a major rift between Ms Ward and her family over treatment Anthony was receiving for ADHD.

Ms Ward had been under pressure in preparation for Anthony returning to school.

"Her brothers and mother felt his treatment didn't agree with him. Diane felt it was in his best interest and that, as his mother, she was doing the right thing," one of the investigating gardai, Detective Sergeant Michael Corbett, had told the court at an earlier hearing.

"Anthony was due to return to school on the Monday morning and the pressures had been building."

In April the court also heard medical evidence that Ms Ward may not even be fully aware that Anthony was dead.

Dr Helen O Neill of the Central Medical Hospital in Dundrum told the court yesterday that Ms Ward's mental state remained stable.

"Her mental state has remained stable and she is cheerful and taking part in activities," she said.

"She has had contact with her brothers but there has been no reconciliation with her mother. Her acute risk is low but there are still concerns about long-term suicide risk."

Ms Ward has been receiving treatment since 1992, which included electroconvulsive therapy, and she had attempted suicide in the past.

The court heard that in the event of Ms Ward being released from the Central Medical Hospital, a bed will be available for her at Carrigmore Hospital in Cork. "Ms Ward would not be discharged without suitable accommodation," said Dr O Neill.

Previously, Anthony's father, Mark Ryan, said in a victim impact statement that Ms Ward is a "person who made a mistake".

He said: "I'm getting on with my life. My loss has been traumatic and I am living with the memory of Anthony and all the good times. I miss him dearly.

"Diane and myself have been friends for 10 years. She is a good person who made a mistake. I wish her well and have no grievance with Diane."

Earlier this year, the court heard that Ms Ward suffered from recurrent depressive disorder. The court heard that her only child Anthony was the 'centre of her world' and that she had invested everything in him and for him. Mr Justice Barry White yesterday imposed a seven-year suspended sentence on Ms Ward.

He said: "It is clear Ms Ward was very troubled mentally at the time she took her son's life. It is also clear her son's father has adopted a most charitable approach in this matter.

"It seems appropriate that the matter be dealt with in a non-custodial method.

"I propose a sentence of seven years suspended for their entirety with certain conditions attached."

Irish Independent

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