Sunday 22 July 2018

Mother of girl (6) found wandering the streets wet and cold avoids jail

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Isabel Hayes

The mother of a six-year-old girl who was found wandering the streets in the middle of winter in a distressed state has avoided a jail term for wilfully neglecting her children.

Gardaí were alerted to the plight of the child, who was found wet and cold on a street in Dublin in January last year, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.

When they tracked down the child's home, her 13-month-old baby sister was discovered strapped into her buggy in her living room. She was in a distressed state, her nappy and clothes were soiled and her mother was in a “disorientated state” on the couch beside her, the court heard.

The 35-year-old Dublin woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her children, pleaded guilty to two counts of wilfully neglecting her children on January 14, 2017.

The court heard that at the time of the offence, she had alcohol addiction issues and had suffered a mental breakdown. Her children have since been removed from her care and are living with relatives.

Sentencing the woman, Judge Martin Nolan said she was “incapable of minding her children” and was guilty of serious neglect. He noted the children had been discovered in distressing conditions and they were afraid, cold, hungry and unsuitably dressed for the time of year.

He noted she has 17 previous convictions, including theft, shoplifting and public order offences.

The court heard that since the incident, the woman had made efforts to address her addiction issues and had engaged in services. She has regular supervised access to her children and hopes to ultimately regain custody of them.

Judge Nolan handed down a two-year sentence and suspended it on a number of conditions, including that the woman engage with Probation Services.

Garda Sean Callaghan told Lorcan Staines BL, prosecuting, that he was called to the address in Dublin by someone who had seen a child wandering the streets in the rain.

When gardaí found the child, she was distressed, lost and afraid of them, the court heard. A local resident approached gardaí and told them where the girl lived. She took temporary care of the child while the officers went to the house.

When they knocked on the door, there was no answer. However, when they looked in the window, they saw the 13-month-old baby crying in her buggy. The mother was on the couch beside the child and it took some time to rouse her, the court heard.

When she came to the door, the mother was unsteady on her feet and slurring her words. She appeared “highly intoxicated”, Gda Callaghan said.

The baby was wet and dirty and appeared afraid of her mother when she approached her, the court heard. The house was in an unkempt state, with empty bottles of wine on the ground and clothes strewn on the floor.

When asked about the whereabouts of her six-year-old child, the mother said she did not know where she was but said the little girl “would be OK as she had a key”. The mother eventually admitted she had drunk one or two bottles of wine.

The children were taken to a garda station and cared for before they were eventually released to the care of their aunts and uncle. Tusla became involved and the children are now in the care of their aunt and grandmother.

Defence counsel, Emmet Nolan BL, said his client had struggled with mental health difficulties from the age of 14. He said she had been sexually abused when she was a child and had received therapy in relation to this.

As a young woman, she became involved in a relationship that was physically and emotionally abusive. Mr Nolan said that at the time of the offence, the woman had suffered a mental breakdown and was a victim of bullying in the area where she lived.

He said she was “ashamed, embarrassed and appalled” at coming before the courts in relation to such a case. She is now detoxing and cooperating fully with Tusla.

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