Sunday 28 December 2014

Neglect mother jailed for failing 'sacred duty' to protect children

Colm Kelpie and Sonya McLean

Published 02/03/2012 | 05:00

A MOTHER jailed for 18 months over the neglect of her children to the point of "cruelty" had disregarded her "sacred duty".

In a damning indictment, Judge Martin Nolan told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the 34-year-old failed miserably in her duty of care, with her children ill-fed, ill-clothed and not toilet trained when taken into care more than four years ago.

The mother had pleaded guilty to 10 counts of neglecting the children between May 2005 and September 2007.

Health authorities and gardai were not aware of the neglect because the family was living an "itinerant" lifestyle, was not claiming social welfare and the youngsters rarely attended school.

The HSE did not answer questions from the Irish Independent on the case yesterday, claiming that the relevant officials could not be reached for comment. But in a statement, it said its national director of children and families would refer the case to the National Review Panel.

"The national director will consider the facts of this case further and will decide the scope of an independent investigation to cover all contacts with the family," it added.

"Clearly the investigation will have to cover both periods: when the family became known to the health authorities after 2007 and also the period from 2001 to 2007 when the family arrived in this country."

The woman, who cannot be named to protect her children's identities, was handed a four-year sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, with all but 18 months suspended.

However, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) hit out at the prison term, branding it "lenient".

Judge Nolan said the woman was damaged, had a dysfunctional past and had been involved with a violent and abusive man, whom she married at the age of 18.

ISPCC advocacy officer Mary Nicholson said: "This is very live, very real and very now. Children are being abused now and I think that cases like this and the Roscommon (incest case) one really bring to the forefront the need to address the gap in our child protection and welfare systems."

Aliases

The family moved from place to place around Ireland, under two different aliases. The parents never claimed social welfare and the children rarely attended school so health authorities were not aware of the neglect until they arrived at a garda station in September 2007.

Details of why they arrived there -- and who brought them -- are still unclear.

The three boys and two girls, who were aged from 4 to 11 when they were first taken into care, had been left with severe and long-term psychological difficulties.

The children were put under the care of the HSE following an emergency care order.

When initially taken into the care of the gardai, the children gulped down their food, while one ate incessantly before throwing up. They didn't know how to use the toilet, wash themselves or when to change their clothes.

The mother had pleaded guilty to 10 counts of neglecting the children between May 2005 and September 2007.

Her 44-year-old husband has already been convicted of neglect of children and sexual abuse and rape of a young girl by a Central Criminal Court jury.

One of the man's previous convictions included the abduction of the defendant in England when she was just 14. The couple later married days after her 18th birthday.

Judge Nolan said it was a sad case. "It seems that the children were ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill taken care of to an extent that amounted to cruelty," he said. "It seems that the evidence ... demonstrates that fact beyond a reasonable doubt."

Judge Nolan said the couple had moved from the UK and led what he deemed to be an "itinerant" lifestyle as the husband attempted to stay under the radar of the authorities.

He said that while he was a violent and abusive man, and that she was a damaged person, she was the children's mother.

"As a guardian and a mother, she had an obligation to take care and to protect the children," he said.

The judge said she "failed miserably" in this task and that she disregarded her "sacred duty" to her children.

Irish Independent

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