A beautiful child who was subjected to a hellish childhood by her mother and stepfather in Cork is now thriving and happy with a family who love her.
Detective Garda Sheena Dowling was giving evidence at the sentencing hearing for the mother who was jailed for one year for cruelty/ neglect of her daughter for a six-year period, starting when her daughter was only six years' old.
Judge Helen Boyle sentenced the mother to two years in jail with the last year suspended at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
“She failed entirely in the safeguarding of her daughter from violence from her stepfather and also inflicted violence on her too. She introduced a really violent and dangerous man into their lives. She was present when that violence was occurring,” Judge Boyle said.
Defence senior counsel Tom Creed said that, fortunately, the injured party is a very bright girl.
Det Garda Dowling agreed and said of the girl, who is now 14: “She is beautiful.”
Det Garda Dowling said the stepfather subjected the child to what she termed as torture.
Earlier this year, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for crimes against the child, up to and including rape.
Mr Creed SC said the girl’s mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she met her husband online, married him six months later and was enthralled by him, even though he is an extremely brutal man who was convicted of the manslaughter of his first wife.
Judge Boyle said: “Neighbours calling the guards probably saved two lives here.”
Mr Creed said: “She was so enthralled by him she thought that everything he did was supposed to be done. Even if it meant beating her daughter, she thought it was supposed to be done. He has a malign influence over the accused.”
Detective Garda Dowling agreed with Mr Creed that the accused is a woman who should never have the care of a child.
She hit her with various objects, including a remote control and a brush and even held a plate with two hands and struck her on the head with it, the court heard.
After six years, what was being suffered by the child only came to light when neighbours reported on a domestic disturbance from the house two years ago.
At that point, a number of neighbours expressed concern to gardaí about the welfare of the child.
She was initially reluctant to give any evidence of what was happening to her at the hands of her mother and her step-father and she appeared to be straining to hear what the two adults were saying in the next room.
She and the adults said visible injuries to her nose and eyes resulted from falling down the stairs but in fact it later emerged she was being subjected to regular assaults by her stepfather while her mother was present.
The child’s mother did not intervene to protect the child during these assaults. However, it was stated that on one occasion when the victim and her mother cried together, the stepfather poured water over both of them and told them to stop crying.
Judge Helen Boyle noted the abuse occurred over a long period of time and that she sometimes went hungry and did not have clothes that fitted her. Neighbours responded by feeding her and on occasions giving her clothing.
The 50-year-old accused woman had no previous convictions.
The injured party is now 14.
The victim said her life was not like a normal life and she would go to school without any breakfast. “I would have to ask my teacher for food in the morning,” she said in her victim impact statement. She preferred school to home and only felt safe there.
She felt she could not trust her mother, who told her she did not have a mother to look after her when she was a child.
Her mother told her she was useless, just like her dad. She says she is now in a happier place with a family who love her. She is angry with her mother and doesn’t want to see her again.
Mr Creed said it was a case of history repeating itself as the 50-year-old woman was abused as a child, leaving her with serious psychiatric problems.
Judge Boyle noted the accused lacked insight into her behaviour towards her daughter.