'Neglect' duo get community service
Gardai at the home of Evelyn Joel at Cluainn Dara, Enniscorthy following her death in January, 2006. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien.
A couple have been ordered by a judge to do 240 hours community service in lieu of a two-year jail term following their conviction in the first ever case of its kind in Ireland of manslaughter through neglect of a family member.
Eleanor Joel (38) and her partner, Jonathan Costen (40), had been convicted last December by a jury at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court of the unlawful killing through neglect of Joel’s mother, Evelyn (59), on January 7th 2006.
Today, Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin ordered both accused to do 240 hours community service in lieu of a two-year jail term suspended on condition that they be of good behaviour for a period of two years including that they be sober in public at all times
Ms Joel, an MS sufferer, died at Wexford General Hospital on January 7th 2006, having been removed there on New Year’s Day from her daughter’s home at Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford where she had been found in bed with bed sores and lying in her own excrement.
Imposing sentence, Judge Ó Donnabháin said the evidence of neglect was particularly shocking as he recalled how Ms Joel had deteriorated after moving in with her daughter in 2004 and effectively taking to her bed in November 2005.
“The evidence was gruesome in the extreme – it was evidence of a terminally ill woman abandoned to lie in her own filth in her own room in the accused’s house and it depicted an almost medieval picture of neglect,” he said.
He noted that the accused in their defence had sought to portray the state agencies as having abandoned them and to hold the State agencies responsible for what happened but there was no one else who should have been before the courts except the accused.
All the attempts by the defence to hold the HSE and other agencies responsible had been put before the jury who had roundly rejected it by finding the two accused guilty of the single count of manslaughter by neglect by a majority 11-1 verdict.
“It wasn’t rocket science- the neglect was in failing to call for help,” said Judge Ó Donnabháin, adding that he completely rejected “the prolonged efforts by the defence to get someone else into the dock”.
Notwithstanding that, it was true to say that were it not for the co-operation of the accused in making statements detailing Ms Joel’s deterioration over her time living with them, the State would not have been able to bring a successful prosecution against them.
“These people would never have been convicted but for their own statements,... if you were dependent on the State agencies, it (the trial) would never have started ....,” he observed.
Judge Ó Donnabháin heard from a victim impact statement prepared by Ms Joel’s siblings, who described their sister as a “kind and gentle and generous person”, and that they hated what the accused had done to her which they described as “unforgettable and unforgiveable”