Child allegedly sexually abused was taken from filthy home

‘She ate a lot, really fast as if starved’ court hears neighbour say of girl rescued by Garda

A child who was allegedly sexual abused by seven men was removed from her home after gardaí found it was filthy and her mother was “extremely drunk”.

Giving evidence in a childcare case at the District Court, reported by the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP), a garda said he had been to houses throughout his 11 years, but had never seen anything like the conditions at the child's house.

He said there was smashed glass on the ground in the kitchen, dirty clothes strewn across the floor, the dishes were stockpiled in the sink and there was no heating. The house was filthy throughout and the mother was falling from side to side and her speech was very slurred, the garda said.

A social worker who attended with the garda said the child’s bunk bed was “an oasis of calm”. The child had lined up her toys meticulously on her bed as well as her clothes, which she had washed herself.


The girl told the social worker her mother had gone to a friend’s house and had only returned the day before. While her mother was away, the child had been locked in on her own. It was December, and there was no heating.

A neighbour also gave evidence of taking the child out of the house and bringing her to her own home while her mother was away.

“She ate a lot, really fast as if starved,” the neighbour said.

Emergency care

The child was taken into emergency care and an application for a full care order was subsequently made. The mother denied all of the allegations in the case.

After the child was taken into care, she spoke of having been sexually abused and recounted her mother’s violence against her, including being pulled by the hair and beaten with a belt.

She told gardaí about incidences when her mother was drinking with a man and the man came up to her room. Her mother was present on some occasions when the child was abused and sometimes removed her daughter’s clothes, the child said. She also said she was abused by friends of her brother.

She gave gardaí the names and addresses of some of the men involved. She said on one occasion the man spoke to her in the kitchen afterwards.

“I think you know what happened last night, if you tell anyone I’m going to do something bad to you,” the child reported him saying.

She was interviewed in total for six hours by gardaí and videos of the interviews were shown in court. Some of the interviews were more than an hour long and the child became distressed on occasion, but the interview continued.

Interview duration

A clinical psychologist who reviewed the videos said it was concerning the first interview lasted over an hour and said a first interview should not run longer than 40 minutes.

“Very often this child is distressed, I would have expected the person observing to say ‘okay, I think that’s enough for now’ and plan the second interview,” he said.

Giving evidence, the garda child specialist interviewer said she was unaware of any proposal for the sexual abuse unit to be involved in the Garda interview process, and did not remember being asked to meet with them regarding input. When the case concluded, the District Court imposed restrictions on the republication of the report by the media. However, following amendments to the report by the CCLRP, this restriction was lifted.

The project will publish its next volume of reports on child protection cases on June 12th.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist