Mother jailed for seven years for incest and abuse
A Co Roscommon mother-of-six has been to sentenced seven years in prison after pleading guilty to incest, sexual assault and neglect of her children.
The woman was told by the sentencing judge she had destroyed the lives of her six children who "from the moment they were born knew nothing but cruelty and neglect".
Minister for Children Barry Andrews expressed his "absolute shock and abhorrence" at the facts of the case and said he had been informed today by the HSE that a preliminary investigation into the circumstances is already underway.
Children's rights bodies and Opposition parties called for a full independent inquiry into the case and the ISPCC said the planned referendum on children's rights should now be held.
Judge Miriam Reynolds, who also placed the accused on the Sex Offenders' Register, said it was the first known case of a woman having been convicted of incest. She said that in imposing sentence she was bound by legislation that was 101 years old, the Punishment of Incest Act 1908.
Under the Act, a man coming before the court on this charge would face life in prison but the maximum sentence for a woman was seven years, the judge said.
She said she believed that women should be treated equally before the law.
The way the legislation was drafted showed that it was not even contemplated by society at the time that a woman could be the perpetrator or instigator in the crime of incest, she added
Imposing sentence at Roscommon Circuit Court, Judge Reynolds said that any possibility of a normal and happy life had been stolen from the six children at the centre of this case by "the woman who calls herself their mother".
She pointed out that even now "these poor children were clinging to the hope" that their mother might get her act together and that they could go home.
She told the 40-year-old accused that she had "cast a long and dark shadow" over the lives of her children.
The court heard harrowing evidence of how the woman had forced one son to have sex with her when he was just 13 years old and she was 36.
The judge also heard that the children who were shunned at school because they smelled and were covered with lice and fleas, were forced to live in squalor, in a freezing, filthy home, over- run with mice and rats, where there was often no food, no heat and where rubbish was dumped in every room.
The judge said she did not know how the children could in the future be able to cope given what they had endured.
"Six lives have been destroyed. There is no other way of putting it."
Judge Reynolds said the children felt guilty and felt as if they had done something wrong. "I want to assure them they did not," she stressed.
The judge said that even at this stage she was being told that one of the teenage children who had contemplated suicide, might harm herself if her mother was imprisoned.
The judge stressed that this child was not responsible for her mother's actions. She said it was difficult for this girl and for all the children because the person they expected to nurture and look after and protect them had in fact been their abuser.
Counsel for the accused, Bernard Madden SC, had pointed out that a victim impact report suggested that one of the woman's daughters had very mixed emotions about her mother and that she longed to be with her.
This child felt she was being punished by being put in care, she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had talked about wanting to kill herself. Counsel expressed concern that if the child¿s mother was sentenced that this could be a precipitating factor "in her doing something she should not do".
Before imposing sentence the judge said she was taking into account the fact that the mother had pleaded guilty, thus saving her children, who had been through so much from the added trauma of having to give evidence.
That would have been "an appalling vista" given that some of the children were still of tender years.
Describing this as a "final act of mercy" by the mother, the judge said it was perhaps "the only act of kindness she ever bestowed on them since they were born".
As their mother the accused had "a very particular position of trust" in the household but the trust had been shattered.
"There was violence. She had dominion over them," said Judge Reynolds.
Mr Madden had told the court that his client accepted responsibility for her actions and wanted to apologise to her children for her failures and for her role in destroying their lives.
She accepted she had done irreparable harm to the children she bore. Her biggest regret was the loss of her children and the fact that they must hold her in contempt, given what she had done and what she had allowed to happen to them.
The accused was sentenced to six years in prison on each of the two incest charges. Two sentences of seven years were imposed on the charges of sexual assault on her son - which carry a maximum sentence of 14 years.
Des Dockerey BL, counsel for the State, pointed out that three of the offences of willful neglect and ill-treatment of her children were committed before the Children's Act 2001 came into force and therefore the maximum sentence was two years.
Three further counts of neglect were dated from 2002 to 2004 and carried a maximum penalty of seven years.
Judge Reynolds imposed sentences of 18 months each for the three earlier charges and of six years each for the three later neglect charges. All sentences are to run concurrently from today.