'Neglect' mother who beat children, pushed them down stairs and held their heads under water jailed for four years
A mother who neglected seven of her children, beating them, driving a car at two young children, pushing one down the stairs and holding their heads under water has been jailed for four years at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.
The 39-year-old mother, who cannot be named to protect her children, was found guilty of 29 counts of cruelty and neglect of her children over a five year period. She was sentenced to four and a half years with the final six months suspended.
The maximum penalty for each count was seven years in prison.
A former partner of the woman, who pleaded guilty to three charges of abuse and two of neglect was given a two year suspended sentence.
Judge O'Connor pointed to his guilty pleas and obvious remorse. She said he was attempting to rehabilitate and develop a relationship with his children.
Judge Karen O’Connor said that mitigating factors in the mother's case had been minimal as there had been no guilty plea, which would have helped the children and no remorse shown by the defendant.
Judge O’Connor said there was “general neglect”, “absence from home” and “failure to look after most basic needs of the children.”
She added that there was “an atmosphere of fear” and the children were “frightened, anxious and helpless as they observed their siblings being beaten.”
“The cumulative affect of cruelty was more damaging that the specific assaults,” she added.
She said one of most disturbing aspects of the case was when the mother had tried to attribute blame to her eldest daughter.
Judge O’Connor commended neighbours for the manner in which they tried to look out for the children, feeding and clothing them and alerting social services in 2009.
“It is a matter of concern to the court that these young victims appear to have remained under the radar from the authorities,” she added.
The woman had denied all charges of cruelty and neglect against her children. However, evidence from her young victims, now aged from 19 to five, along with neighbours, was heard during the nine day trial in January.
Evidence was also heard from a consultant plastic surgeon that scars on the back on one of the children was consistent with having been beaten with a back scratcher.
During the trial the mother admitted pouring washing up liquid into the mouths of three of her children but told the court she “didn’t see anything wrong” with her actions.
She also accepted that she smacked her children, hit them with a belt and spoon and left two young daughters in the care of a functioning alcoholic while she went to a pub.
Two hours later the children were found by gardai with the man who was so drunk he could not care for them.
However, she denied this was abusive or neglectful behaviour.
Evidence was heard of heavy drinking in the family home which would often result in violence. The woman’s older daughter gave evidence of her mother trying to drown her in the kitchen sink. She said the violence was worse with alcohol but could happen “on any day”.
One young boy told how his mother had laughed after pushing him down the stairs. On another occasion she had driven a car at her two young sons after they spilled ice cream, causing them to take evasive action to avoid being hit.
The abuse came to light when the children were taken into care in May 2011, after social workers made an unannounced visit to the home in the west of Ireland.
They found the children left in ‘a chaotic scene’ in the care of two intoxicated men, one of whom was asleep on a bed, while the mother was away on a short break.
Victim Impact statements were also read from some of the children, who told of their ongoing anxiety, feelings of sadness and a lack of self worth. The children also told of their sadness that they no longer saw their siblings often.
Judge Karen O’Connor said the children had told of years of neglect with an absence of food, adequate footwear or clothing. All except the two youngest children gave evidence of physical violence.