Sunday 18 March 2018

Woman who struck nine-month-old niece has part of sentence reactivated

Sonya McLean and Fiona Ferguson

A CHRONIC heroin addict who was previously sentenced for repeatedly striking her nine-month-old niece as she was coming down from the drug has had part of her sentence reactivated.

The 27-year-old woman was sentenced by Judge Desmond Hogan in July 2011 to four years with the final two suspended for the offence. Today the court heard that she had committed an attempted robbery following her release and within the suspended portion of that sentence.


The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, has three children of her own and gave birth to her last baby while on remand in the Dochas Centre. She has 41 previous convictions.


She pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to cruelty to a child in her care between May 1, 2007 and May 4, 2007. She was taking care of the baby for her sister at the time.


At the original sentence hearing the court heard the child’s mother left her in the woman’s care for several days even though the last time she cared for a child “it didn’t work out too well.” The mother was also aware the woman was a chronic heroin addict.


The baby’s mother had been asked to provide a victim impact report to the court but refused to co-operate.


Today/yesterday (FRI) Garda Gerry Gibbons told Judge Hogan that the woman pleaded guilty last month in the District Court to an attempted robbery of a phone from a woman in April 2012.


Section 99 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 provides that when a person breaches the conditions of their suspended sentence by re-offending they shall appear before the original sentencing court for possible reactivation of the suspended sentence before the new matter is dealt with.


The subsequent sentence for the new matter will then be consecutive to any portion of the original sentence which is reactivated.


Defence counsel, Maire Torrens BL, said the accused woman had handed herself into gardai in January 2013. She said when the woman was released from prison after serving the sentence, she fell into bad company and drug use again.


Judge Hogan imposed nine months of the suspended two year portion of the sentence and suspended the remaining 15 months for three years on conditions including that she is of good behaviour and undergoes drug treatment.


He remanded the attempted robbery charge back to the District Court for sentencing.


Judge Hogan had noted at the original sentence hearing that a medical report from Temple Street concluded that the child’s facial bruising was consistent “with forceful gripping with an adult hand” and noted that the baby also had a “slight haemorrhage” under her left eye.


Detective Sergeant William Beirne told Mr Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, at a previous sentence hearing that the woman admitted to gardai in interview that she struck the child when she was in the toilet of a fast food restaurant taking heroin.


She said she was “dying sick” because she could not get any “buzz” off the drugs.


The baby woke up and started crying so she hit her across the face about three times. She said she was sorry and did not mean to hurt the child but that “babies bruise easily.”


The baby spent a week in hospital being treated for bruising and haemorrhages across her face and body and a haemorrhage to her eye. The court heard she is now in a stable foster home and is a happy and healthy child.


Det Sgt Beirne said the woman came from a large family which had “a lot of problems.”




Det Sgt Beirne said the woman arrived at a drug treatment centre to pick up her methadone with the baby in her arms. A social worker there noticed bruising to the baby’s face.


When she was first questioned she said she had not noticed the injuries. She claimed she had been minding the child for a few hours while the mother went shopping however it was later established that the child had been with her for three or four days.


The social worker decided to bring the baby to a hospital and a doctor there determined the injuries we non-accidental. She had facial bruising consistent with being gripped by an adult hand and fingerprint bruising across its body which could not have been caused by siblings playing with the child.


When the father was informed of the incident a week later he said he was unhappy the child had been left in her care because she was a heroin addict. He said the last time she cared for one of their children “it didn’t work out too well.”


The child spent six days in hospital before being released into the care of a social worker. An investigation was started but gardai could not track down the woman. They eventually found her two years later in The Dochas Centre where she had been detained on another charge.


Judge Hogan said at the original hearing in 2011 the woman was lucky the little girl had no long term injuries and said he was satisfied the infant was being “well-cared for in another setting”.


He noted that gardai were first alerted to the baby’s injuries when the woman presented at her local treatment centre for methadone.

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