A woman found guilty of the sexual exploitation of her child has received a fully-suspended prison sentence after a court heard she was traumatised and in need of interventions.
The Cork native, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, was convicted by a jury last June of wilful neglect of the child between September 2010 to June 2015. She was also found guilty of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of the child on a date unknown between September 2013 and June 2015.
The court has heard that the 45-year-old, who has very limited cognitive functioning, does not accept the verdicts of the jury.
Det Sgt Clare Corcoran told Lorcan Staines SC, prosecuting, that in 2004 the defendant married a man and they had seven children together, who were all ultimately taken into care.
One of the children was aged just under five when he went into care and was found to be unable to dress himself or to sit in a chair. He behaved more like a child of two or three,
was found to have no understanding of personal boundaries and was not toilet-trained. In late 2017, the boy made disclosures to his foster mother of sexual assault against his mother and father. He described both parents being present when his mother molested him.
During the trial, the woman did not accept the child was sexually abused and in evidence she named her husband as her own father and claimed that she was conceived in the back of a garda car.
The child’s father, who was the designated primary carer of the child, was charged and prosecuted for more serious sexual offending, but died in custody before his trial. Ms Justice Karen O’Connor noted that he continued to “enjoy the presumption of innocence” in law.
In his victim impact report, the child, who is now in State care, said he continues to have nightmares of his parents coming to get him.
“When asked about good memories, I end up running to the bathroom crying,” he said.
Ronan Munro SC, defending, said that his client was addicted to heroin but she has now stabilised her drug use with methadone. He said the woman has suffered post-natal depression as well as a number of bereavements. “My client is traumatised. She has never had a loving, intimate relationship from childhood onwards,” he said.
The court heard that as a child in 1989, the woman reported being sexually abused by her own father and was assessed by social services but that there had been no follow up.
The judge noted the contents of an assessment carried out by forensic psychologist Dr Patrick Randall, who said the woman had experienced significant childhood trauma.
Ms Justice O’Connor said this was a difficult case involving a young child victim of neglect and serious sexual offending.
She said that given the expert evidence of Dr Randall, she was not of the view that society would not benefit from the further incarceration of the woman, who has been in custody since June 8th last, and that there was no dispute that the woman has an extremely low intellectual ability and has a “high density of intervention needs”.
She backdated a three-year sentence and suspended the remainder on conditions including that the woman engage with Tusla regarding child safeguarding measures and engage with drug and alcohol use interventions as advised.