Judge Patrick McCartan jailed the Lithuanian mother for two years after he heard how her alcohol addiction led to her neglecting her nine-year-old daughter, including leaving her at home alone for four days.
The 53-year-old woman, who cannot be named to protect the girl’s anonymity, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal court to child cruelty between October 10, 2012, and December 13, 2012.
Judge McCartan said that this offence fell in the “mid-range” category and it involved the “utter neglect of the needs of a young child”.
The judge said that the problems, which had originated in 2012 still persisted as the accused was still drinking and “cannot see clearly ahead of her”.
In a victim impact report, written by the now 13-year-old girl, she recalled once eating fish food because she was hungry. She called her mother “unpredictable” and said she was always scared as she did not know what would happen next.
She was very lonely in the house on her own so the dog would keep her company when her mother was out.
The court heard that the daughter has since engaged in self-harming.
Anne Rowland, prosecuting, told the court that the girl pared her fingers with her pencil sharpener and rubbed her hands off towels until they bled.
Counsel said a neighbour encouraged the child to come to his home after he discovered she had been home alone for a number of days.
“When his partner bathed her in water it turned dark,” said counsel. “She had severe head lice and scabbing all over her head. When the neighbour made food she ate it like a savage. The child smelt badly and had bags under her eyes and looked very unwell.”
The next morning the accused arrived at their house looking for her daughter. She was extremely drunk with a black eye and began kicking in their door.
That same day, the man’s partner rang the child’s school principal, who confirmed that the child had been absent from school for two weeks. There were no notes from her mother to explain her absences. The HSE were then contacted.
Later the same day, a teacher from the child’s school went to the accused’s home accompanied by gardaí. The child answered the front door and the accused was standing in the background. There was a smell of alcohol and a broken bottle of vodka on the floor.
Dirty dishes were piled up in the sink and on the worktop. Rubbish was overflowing and stacks of unwashed clothes were on the floor. The mother denied to gardaí the child had been left alone in the house for four days.
Michael Bowman, defending, said the child’s father was not around and his client struggled with alcohol for a very long period of time.
“Since she has lost her daughter to social services, that has acted as a wake-up call to her,” he said.