Gardaí found children in a house strewn with beer cans and in the company of their parents and grandmother, all of whom were intoxicated, when they responded to a call in Drogheda last year.
That evidence was given in the district court on Monday when the father and mother were each accused of neglecting their three daughters arising from the incident on 20 March 2021.
The children were aged 12 and under at the time and following a hearing Judge Michele Finan dismissed the charge against the mother, while she convicted the father, both of whom are aged in their thirties.
Reporting restrictions were imposed to protect the identity of the children.
The court heard that gardaí received a call at 4.10am to assist ambulance personnel after the mother had fallen down the stairs.
Gda John Walsh said that when he arrived, he was met by an elderly female who was the children’s paternal grandmother. It was her house.
‘It was clear she was under the influence,’ said Gda Walsh, who added this person was accompanied by two children.
Gda Walsh continued that the floor was slippery, beer was visible and there was a smell of alcohol in the hallway.
He went upstairs and, in a bedroom, found one of the defendants whose youngest daughter was attempting to comfort her.
This small child was wrapped in an unclean duvet which had no cover. There was a ‘strong smell’ of liquor from the bedroom and evidence of alcohol use.
The woman told him she had fallen down the stairs because she was drunk.
Gda Walsh said that when he went back down, he encountered the other accused who was ‘immediately agitated’. This man said the officer had no business in the house and swore at him.
The witness said he told the father that he had been invited in and that he had a concern for the children.
‘This caused him to become more agitated. The children were very distressed. His behaviour was highly irate and caused the children to cry.’
Gda Walsh said the children normally resided at a different address. The matter was referred to Tusla, the child and family agency.
Gda Eilis McGinley gave evidence that there was ‘strong smell’ of drink from the grandmother. She was unsteady on her feet and her speech was slurred.
When the officer entered the bedroom, she saw the mother and one of her children on a bed which had no sheets. The mattress was dirty. There were spillages in the room.
The mother was intoxicated, unable to stand and slurring her words. The father became ‘extremely aggressive and agitated’. In front of the children, he said he needed a joint to calm down.
Gda McGinley added there was ‘a large quantity of cans dispersed throughout the house’.
Barrister Ronan O’Carroll, representing the children’s mother, said this was an ‘unsightly’ incident with three intoxicated adults.
Judge Finan interjected to say she was dismissing the charge against his client. This woman was in bed when gardaí arrived recovering from whatever accident or mishap befell her. There was evidence of drink taken but no evidence of anything else.
Solicitor Paul Moore, for the father, said gardaí arrived at an ‘unsightly and difficult situation’ but any evidence was of their engagement with the accused.
He submitted that the children were not subject to any ill-treatment.
However, the judge said this defendant was ‘roaring and shouting looking for a joint while the kids where there’.
Judge Finan said she found that the evidence supported the charge.
The defendant did not testify.
Mr Moore said his client struggled severely with an alcohol addiction. While he lived separately from their mother, he was fully involved in all the children’s lives.
He had been engaging with the Red Door until November when he started work which finished in February. He had not worked since.
There had been no adverse garda attention since the incident.
Judge Finan remanded him on continuing bail to 19 September for a community service report and said she was considering a sentence of 70 hours in lieu of two months’ imprisonment.
The judge commended the officers involved for how they conducted themselves, remarking it was an excellent example of how gardaí work.