Woman given suspended sentence for child neglect

A mother who left her three-month-old baby outside “in the depths of winter in below sub-zero temperatures” has been given a 12-month suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The 38-year-old woman left the child crying hysterically and in a distressed state in a buggy outside her home while she remained inside the house in a “highly intoxicated state.”

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, pleaded guilty to neglecting her child on January 7, 2009 outside her home.

Garda Rory O’Mara told Ms Roisin Lacey BL, prosecuting, that he received a report of an incident at the woman’s address at around 9pm.

“The child was outside in a buggy, fully clothed with a blanket on. The temperature outside was well below freezing,” said Gda O’Mara.

“The front door of the house was open and I heard shouting coming from inside.”

He said the accused was shouting “I don’t want that baby, it’s not my baby,” and proceeded to go outside to have a cigarette.

“The house was in a poor state with cigarette ash everywhere and a putrid smell came from the sitting room,” said Gda O’Mara.

He agreed with defence counsel, Mr Patrick Marrinan SC, that the woman’s partner had a seizure earlier in the evening and the woman said she could not “cope with her partner’s seizure and the baby crying.”

The woman and her partner had been drinking earlier that day in a nearby public house and she admitted that the last time she had fed and changed the baby was at around 1.30 pm that day.

Gda O’Mara said he located the woman’s partner in a house next door “highly intoxicated” and he had refused to return to the house while the accused was still there.

The accused woman then came out of the house and retrieved cans of beer from the baby’s buggy while gardaí brought the baby to the patrol car to bring her to her grandmother’s home.

The accused claimed she had “only left the baby for two to three minutes outside” as she had rushed inside to use the bathroom.

Mr Marrinan said the accused had been staying at a Women’s Refuge Centre but was not allowed to return that night as she had alcohol taken.

“She has limited intellectual ability and her IQ is 58,” said Mr Marrinan. “She needs education in parenting skills and had severe educational difficulties from a young age.”

He said the accused developed significant alcohol problems and on the day she had a “serious argument” with her partner.

“But this is no excuse for leaving the child outside. She was drunk and unable to cope,” said Mr Marrinan. “And she recognises the seriousness of the offence.”

“The abandonment and neglect of the baby was over a short period of time,” he added.

Judge Patrick McCartan said he “cannot agree” that the abandonment and neglect was “over a short period as she last tended to the child at around 1.30pm.”

“The baby was left out in the elements in its pram hysterical and this should not have happened.

“Children are innocent and look to their parents for care and comfort and this baby was badly neglected.”

“It is quite clear the accused is not someone who is in a position to offer care and comfort to young children.

“On the basis of the HSE intervening and the children are now under close supervision, I have some comfort in not sending the accused to prison,” he said, ordering that the accused continue to engage with the Heath Service Executive.

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