Jennifer O’Driscoll, of St John’s Terrace, World’s End, Kinsale, Co Cork, denied all charges against her at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
A jury took only 40 minutes to reach unanimous not guilty verdicts on all charges. Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin was told there were no further charges against the accused. He told the defendant she was free to go.
Dermot Sheehan, prosecuting, told the jury before they began deliberations that they could convict the defendant if they were satisfied the children’s birth mother was telling the truth.
Ray Boland, defending, said the State had to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt and that they were inviting the jury to disregard evidence from their own witnesses that was incompatible with their case.
He urged the jury to have regard for this evidence.
In particular, he referred to a letter on file with the Department of Social Welfare where Ms O’Driscoll told them the children were in care and the child benefit payments should not be paid to the birth mother but to the foster carers.
Mr Boland asked why she would do that if she wanted to take the money from the mother, as alleged.
Ms O’Driscoll was found not guilty on all nine counts of deception related to a period between January and September 2008 in the course of the defendant’s work as a HSE social worker.
Through an interpreter, the mother of five said: “First of all, she asked me for money on the first Tuesday of every month, that I would give her money, I should do everything she would tell me to do in relation to the children.
“She would contact me in advance to announce she would come. On the first Tuesday of every month she used to come exclusively for money. That was child benefit money.
“[She told me] that the money was going to the three houses where the children were placed.
“I did not oppose. I did not want to oppose if I wanted my children to come back to me… Jennifer arrived at my house and collected the money.”
The defendant told gardai in an interview: “I did not take any money from that lady. I went out of my way to help her. It is very hurtful to be accused of this.”