Cork mother successfully appeals jail sentence in 'harrowing' child cruelty case

The judge suspended her sentence "in view of the steps that have been taken to rehabilitate".
Cork mother successfully appeals jail sentence in 'harrowing' child cruelty case

The court heard two of the children were still in care and the defendant was living with the youngest child. File photo: iStock

A young mother who locked her three children in bedrooms while she went out drinking ended up detained at a garda station for drink-driving – and she has just succeeded in her appeal against a prison term.

She was sentenced to six months in jail in November 2019 as Judge Olann Kelleher said at the time: “It is the most harrowing case I have dealt with in the last 10 years.” Now at Cork Circuit Appeals Court, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin has suspended the sentence, on the application of Eugene Murphy, solicitor.

“I am disposed to suspend the sentence given the progress that has been made – in view of the steps that have been taken to rehabilitate and re-establish the family bonds,” the judge said.

Mr Murphy, solicitor, said two of the children were still in care and the defendant has access to the youngest child. Gardaí confirmed she had not come to any adverse notice since August 2018.

The 32-year-old mother of three was originally sentenced to three concurrent six-month jail terms for cruelty to each of her children on a date in November 2019.

A member of An Garda Síochána arrived at the house in the early hours of the morning hearing them inside crying for help and unable to get to the front door. He had to force his way in to assist them.

Eugene Murphy, solicitor, said the mother who has a previous conviction for cruelty to her children in similar circumstances had been addicted to prescription tablets and alcohol but had since undertaken life-changing rehabilitation and loved her children deeply.

Judge Kelleher concluded in Cork District Court: “The guard who attended could not gain entry. He heard the three children crying because they could not get out of the room. He went upstairs. The children were in dark bedrooms locked from the outside. He found a potty for a child overflowing with urine.

The older child got upset. She got so upset she thought she was going to be kidnapped. She has now taken on a parental role (with her two younger siblings) and she is only seven or eight herself. She should not have to do this.

“She was able to roleplay (for Tusla social workers) the guard coming up the stairs. Obviously it is still in her mind. She says her mother locks the doors most nights even when she begs her not to do so.” 

“The most important part is the fact of the breach of trust. The children suffered very badly. They had no choice in this matter. They just had to take it. To put locks on the doors outside was pre-meditated by the mother. The court must do their best to protect the vulnerable – young people and older people.” 

Eugene Murphy, solicitor, said when the case came before Cork District Court: “This lady – because of her difficulty based on poly-substance abuse, primarily prescription drugs and alcohol – ordinary basic human behaviour, behaviour towards one’s children was entirely compromised and overlooked in an inexcusable manner. Her judgement was utterly irrational and clouded,” he said.

Mr Murphy said she was attending parenting courses, addiction treatment, probation service among a range of support services in putting her life back on track.

“This lady is damaged by what happened. She loves her children deeply… and the children are extremely close to her and get on extremely well with her,” he said.

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