A judge has called in the gardaí after hearing that a father strips his three children - one girl as young as three - and flogs them twice weekly with a belt as they lie on the floor.
Judge Patrick Durcan made the intervention to call in the gardaí to mount a criminal investigation after hearing the children’s mother make the allegation at a behind closed door family law court hearing in Ennis.
The woman gave evidence of the beatings by her husband on their children aged seven, six and three when seeking a Protection Order against him.
In her written statement grounding the application for the Protection Order the mother stated: “In the past, my husband was more physically abusive and aggressive towards me, but he now directs most of his abuse towards the children.”
She stated: “My husband flogs the children twice weekly by removing their clothing, making them lay on the floor and beating them with his belt.”
Judge Durcan summoned Sgt Aiden Lonergan of Ennis Garda Station to the in-camera court sitting and told him of the woman’s allegations after the mother stated she would like the judge's assistance in having gardaí involved.
When the woman told Judge Durcan that she had not reported the assaults to the gardaí, Judge Durcan stated: “This should be reported immediately to the gardaí.” The woman stated that she did go to a local garda station but it was closed at the time.
Asked by Judge Durcan have these been very hard, severe beatings, the woman stated: “Sometimes, when he is very angry.” The Court Registrar confirmed to Judge Durcan that as part of mandatory reporting requirements he has informed the Child and Family Agency (CFA) of the woman’s allegations.
In her statement, the woman stated that on Wednesday of last week, she was at her sister’s home when her husband phoned and he was angry as he could not find his car keys and he had an appointment that he had to attend.
The woman stated: “I returned home with the children to look for the key with him. He was extremely angry and shouting. He was out of control.
“When we found the key my daughter stated it was her brother (6) who had hid it. My husband walked up to my son and punched him on the head.
My husband was shouting at me and calling me names in front of the children. I was upset and shouted at him to stop.
"He came up to me and attempted to put his two fingers into my eyes.”
The woman stated that the following night she stayed at a different address with the children “because I was in fear of my safety and I was afraid he might find us so I contacted a women’s refuge to request a place.”
The woman stated that the previous week, her husband had locked her and her children out of the house after an argument over money.
The woman stated that there is an immediate risk of harm to her and any dependents if the Protection Order is not made immediately.
Judge Durcan granted the Protection Order which was made on an ex-parte basis where the other side is not present.
Judge Durcan told the woman: “I hope things improve for you. You are now under the court’s protection.” Judge Durcan stated that the Protection Order will now be served on the man by the gardaí.
The protection order grants the woman temporary protection pending an application for a Safety Order where the other side can either consent to such an order or oppose it which will involve both sides giving evidence in a contested court hearing.
Judge Durcan provided Sgt Lonergan with the woman’s statement and in response Sgt Lonergan immediately contacted a female detective from the Clare Division’s recently formed Protective Services Unit (PSU) to come to court.
Garda PSUs - made up of Garda members with specialist investigative skills - have been established to investigate crimes such as child abuse and domestic abuse. The plain-clothes detective spoke to the children’s mother outside court.