12 Aug 2022

Couple to be sentenced for child cruelty after failing to get medical care for baby

Couple to be sentenced for child cruelty after failing to get medical care for baby

A couple are to be sentenced for child cruelty after failing to obtain medical aid for a baby with extensive bruising who they claimed had fallen off a mattress.

The court heard the baby incurred bruising to her head, face and body while the family stayed overnight at a semi-derelict house after the mother of the child had an argument with her own mother.

The child was seen by doctors who felt the injuries were not consistent with a fall from a mattress as the mother claimed. The child was kept in hospital for observation but no treatment was required.

The 36-year-old mother of the child pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to wilful neglect and allowing her child to be harmed at a derelict house on dates between January 25 and 27, 2016.

Her 38-year-old partner pleaded not guilty to wilful assault, wilful neglect, and assaulting the child causing her harm on the same occasion.

Following legal argument during the trial, Judge Martina Baxter directed verdicts of not guilty in relation to the charges of wilful assault and assault causing harm against the man.

She also directed a verdict of not guilty in relation to the charge of allowing her child to be harmed against the mother.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty in relation to the wilful neglect charges following the trial last December. Reporting restrictions apply to protect the identity of the child who is now in foster care.

Judge Baxter adjourned sentencing after evidence was heard in the case on Monday until June to allow updated reports be prepared.

Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, told the court the State did not have a victim impact report in circumstances where the child had recovered from her injuries with no adverse consequences and was now in a place of safety.

A prosecuting garda told Ms Rowland that the mother left the house she had been living in after a row with her own mother and went to an address with her partner and the baby which was semi derelict and had no electricity or running water.

The family attended the following day at a homeless service and obtained food. They returned the next day and a staff member noticed bruising on the baby. The mother said she fell from a mattress.

The resident nurse came to look and said she had to “encourage and coax” the mother to have a resident doctor look at the child. A taxi was arranged to a children's hospital and doctors there examined the child.

The mother again said she fell from a bed. She said the child had not vomited or lost consciousness and she had watched her during the night.

A consultant paediatrician said the child had extensive bruising on her body and the bruising, particularly in locations such as her head, ears and back, was not the type to be accidentally incurred.

The mother has a number of previous convictions for theft and public order offences. Her partner has previous convictions for drug offences, failing to appear, begging and theft.

The court heard the couple are still in a relationship and are in secure accommodation and engaging well with services available to them.

Roderick O'Hanlon SC, defending the man, said the woman had vacated her previous accommodation and was effectively homeless so the man had offered a roof over their heads but it was clearly not appropriate to accommodate children.

He said the man had no previous experience with parenting and submitted that no medical treatment was actually required in the end with the condition best treated by rest.

Paul Greene SC, defending the mother, said she had not interfered with protection proceedings taken after this event in relation to having the child taken into care.

He said this episode had been the start of a chaotic period in his client’s life but she is actively addressing her risk factors including substance misuse and secure accommodation.

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