| 12.8°C Dublin

Harrowing scandal of children whipped, beaten and starved by their evil father

A father who neglected and physically abused his children has been given a seven-year sentence by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne at the Central Criminal Court.

A foster mother to two of his young daughters said feeding them was like feeding Oliver Twist as they were so hungry.

The 42-year-old man, who can not be named to protect the identity of the children, was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury last April, following a 13-day trial, of neglecting four of his children and three counts of assaulting each of his sons on dates between January and September 2007.

The five children, three boys and two girls, were aged between four and 11 when they were taken into care.

During the trial the court heard graphic evidence from social workers and foster parents of the condition of the children when they were taken into care. The children were described as filthy and inadequately dressed for cold weather with some wearing clothes several sizes too small for them. They ate hungrily when given food.

The youngest child was "walking alive with head lice" and she and her older sister were not toilet trained

A former neighbour of the family gave evidence that the girls were scruffy and would walk around outside with bare feet. She said they were always hungry.

The three boys gave evidence during the trial that they were hit by their father, sometimes with implements such as belts and shoes, and the youngest boy described how he was hit "even when I was good".

Victim impact reports read to the court during the sentence hearing outlined the impact the offences had on the children's lives and their prospects for the future.

The children were described as having educational problems, difficulties making friends and having a troubled relationship with food.

One child asked that his father receive a "999-year sentence in prison or have his head chopped off", while a daughter asked the judge to "make everything right" and keep her father away from children.

Ms Justice Dunne imposed the maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment on the counts of neglect and wilful assault of the eldest two boys but suspended the final year and ordered that the man enter a good behaviour bond and undergo probation supervision on his release.

She imposed concurrent sentences of six and five years in relation to the other children.

She said the evidence in the case "paints an appalling picture" and the victim impact reports outlined the "appalling consequences that the offences in this case have visited on these children".