Mother facing charges of neglect and abuse of her children unfit to be tried

Woman (50) assessed by doctor who told court she appeared to have difficulties with attention and comprehension

A Dublin mother who faced 61 charges relating to the neglect and abuse of her two youngest children has been found unfit to be tried.

The 50-year-old woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her children, was to stand trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in relation to one charge of causing or encouraging a sexual offence upon a child, three counts of reckless endangerment and 57 counts of neglecting the children, on dates from 2002 to 2010.

A 78-year-old man is still before the courts on similar charges.

The children were ultimately taken into care in December 2010. She has had no contact with the children since.

Orla Crowe SC, defending told Judge Cormac Quinn that the HSE had previously been involved with her client and her children which included assisting the woman in helping to ensure that the children were fed a breakfast and sent to school.

Doctor John Hillery, consultant psychiatrist, who assessed the woman on behalf of the defence told Ms Crowe that the woman attended his clinic along with her advocate.

He said the woman appeared to have difficulties with attention and comprehension and didn’t seem to understand the seriousness of the charge.

He said she was unable to give details about the charges against her or time lines in relation to her court appearances. She spoke of the possibility of “getting locked up” if she were to be convicted but Dr Hillery said she “showed no concern” of the prospect of this.

He said the woman was also “totally preoccupied” by the fact that her boyfriend was calling her during their meeting and seemed more concerned about wanting to answer the phone.

Dr Hillery said he also spoke to the woman’s advocate who expressed concerns about the accused’s comprehension and communication skills despite the fact that she had been assessed as being capable of living independently.

Needed lifelong support

He concluded that although the woman had previously been assessed as having a mild intellectual disability, he found that her actual level of functioning was lower than that.

He said she didn’t understand the seriousness of the charges against her, or the actions of the court and he believed she would not be able to properly instruct a solicitor.

Dr Hillery also noted that the woman needed lifelong support from learning disability services to prevent her from being taken advantage of in the future.

Dr Brenda Wright, forensic psychiatrist, who assessed the woman on behalf of the State told Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, prosecuting, that she considered the woman's fitness to plea for trial. She said having met with the woman she was "not satisfied that she met the criteria" and concluded that she could not properly instruct a legal team or challenge evidence in a trial.

Dr Wright concluded that “an unfitness” to plead arises from the woman’s intellectual disability.

She said she was in agreement with Dr Hillery that the woman’s needs “lie very much in the area of life long support”.

Judge Quinn said having considered the reports from each of the doctors and their testimonies before the court, he accepted that the woman was unfit to be tried.

He adjourned the case for 12 months to July 15, 2020 to monitor her case and see what assistance she is getting in the community for her disability.