Judge: If woman marries, I will jail her

Mother of six faces charges of child neglect following blackout

Marriage would literally be a jail sentence for a 31-year-old Cork woman.

The woman, whose six children are in the care of the health board, faced sentencing yesterday for child neglect and the judge warned the accused, who is now engaged, that if she got married between now and the adjournment date in October she would be jailed.

At lunchtime on July 1, 2014, Tommy Roche, a traffic warden in Youghal, notified gardaí when he saw a woman slumped unconscious over the wheel of her parked car with three very young children inside. Garda Brian Nodwell arrived and called an ambulance to have the children medically examined first and then the mother checked.

“Two boys were running around in the car, with no shoes or socks and no tops, they looked dirty,” said Garda Nodwell. “In the back on the floor rolled up in a little ball was a baby girl [nine months old]. I took her from the floor to make sure she was alive.”

The children were found to be reasonably healthy and the mother was unconscious with drink. She was arrested and the children were taken into care. These children and three other children of the same mother are now in foster care.

On the night before this, the woman had been drinking with two men. Prosecution barrister Donal McCarthy said there was some element of those two men taking advantage of her that night.

She faced sentencing at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on charges of child neglect arising out of the incident.

Sinead Behan, defence barrister, said the accused had five children with her first husband, who is now gone, and the sixth child with another man.

“She is engaged to be married,” said Ms Behan.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “The lady has six children. Are there going to be more? The burden on the State to mind this lady’s six children is considerable. Now we are going on a matrimonial excursion again.

“She is getting married. Am I supposed to be impressed by that?”

Ms Behan said the woman was married at 17 and had five children and endured a lot of domestic violence. She had other difficulties in her life and an escalating drink problem. However, Ms Behan said that, since this occurred almost two years ago, she had done a lot to address her problems and stabilise her life.

Referring to her being engaged, the judge said: “With six children in the care of the Southern Health Board, it frightens me. You know how loving and tender the mercies of the Southern Health Board are.”

Ms Behan said: “It is better she is in a stable committed relationship than not, but I do accept your point.”

Judge Ó Donnabháin replied: “I will adjourned sentencing to October to see how she progresses. There is not to be a change in her status until then. If there is a substantial change in her status there will be a custodial sentence.”

 


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