Tuesday 24 September 2019

Autistic child (4) found alone 'crying and screaming' near stream while mother was so drunk she was 'barely able to stand'

Blanchardstown District Court
Blanchardstown District Court
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A MOTHER left her distressed four-year-old autistic son alone and crying near a river while she was so drunk she was "barely able to stand", a court heard.

Gardai found the young boy distraught and screaming near a stream in west Dublin.

The mother (33) was discovered "highly intoxicated" in a nearby housing estate, where she was trying to find help after locking herself out of her home.

Blanchardstown District Court heard the Child and Family Agency Tusla had investigated the incident and found there were "no issues", but were still involved in drawing up a protection plan for the child.

Judge David McHugh adjourned the case for a pre-sentence probation report.

The accused, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty to being drunk while in charge of her child on a date in June this year.

Garda Sergeant Geraldine McManigan told the court gardai were called and directed to a leisure centre where it was reported that a young toddler was outside, alone in a highly distressed state.

Gardai arrived to find the child "crying and screaming" and close to a river stream.

The Childcare Act was invoked and gardai were told the mother was in the nearby housing estate. They discovered the accused in a highly intoxicated state, "barely able to stand", Sgt McManigan said.

She was arrested for her own safety. The court heard the accused had two previous convictions, but neither was for an offence "of this nature."

The woman had mislaid her keys and was locked out of her home at the time of the incident, her solicitor Kelly Breen said. She had been trying to get a neighbour to let her use a phone to contact her partner.

She accepted she had a lot of alcohol taken at the time.

Judge McHugh asked if the State had any ongoing concerns about the child's welfare.

"No, Tusla has conducted an investigation and has deemed that there are no issues," Sgt McManigan said.

Ms Breen said Tusla were still in contact with the accused and a protection plan would be put in place, with a key worker involved.

"Tusla are very heavily involved in making sure everything is in order for the child," Ms Breen said,

The woman was taking steps to deal with her alcohol problem by doing a 10-week counselling course.

Her alcohol problem meant she would never be able to drink, Ms Breen said. The accused's long-term partner, who was the child's father, was in court and he was "fully aware" of the case and was supportive of her.

The accused had a career to pursue, and the case was "of a very sensitive nature," Ms Breen said.

Judge McHugh ordered a probation report, saying he was reassured by the steps that had already been taken but "it has to be fully explored."

He adjourned the case to a date in November, remanding the woman on continuing bail.

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