Mother found guilty of starving, neglecting eight children

Jury took just under four hours to find woman guilty of 29 charges

Following the verdicts on Friday  afternoon, Judge Karen O’Connor remanded the woman on continuing bail with several strict bail conditions attached, to appear before Galway Circuit Criminal Court again in April for sentence. File photograph: Collins Courts

Following the verdicts on Friday afternoon, Judge Karen O’Connor remanded the woman on continuing bail with several strict bail conditions attached, to appear before Galway Circuit Criminal Court again in April for sentence. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

A 39-year-old mother has been found guilty by a jury of beating, starving and neglecting eight of her children over a number of years.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, had denied 42 charges of child cruelty and neglect at six different locations on dates between September 1st, 2006, and May 12th, 2011, contrary to section 246 (1) and (2) of the Children’s Act 2001.

The jury of nine men and three women took just under four hours of deliberations, spread over two days, at Galway Circuit Criminal Court to find the woman guilty of 29 charges of child cruelty and neglect and not guilty of the remaining 13 charges.

The woman was acquitted by the jury of 12 charges relating to the alleged cruelty, abandonment and neglect of some of the children at two locations between 2006 and 2008.

They also acquitted her of a single charge which related to allegations made by her eldest daughter that her mother had cut her arm with a blade while showing her how to self-harm.

Wearing a T-shirt, jeans and jacket, the woman remained expressionless, sitting behind her defence team, while the jury’s 42 unanimous verdicts were read to the court.

The woman’s eldest daughter burst into tears as she sat at the back of the courtroom flanked by her foster mother and a friend.

Her mother had initially pleaded not guilty to 44 charges of cruelty and neglect while six additional charges were added to the indictment during the nine-day trial.

Following legal argument, Judge Karen O’Connor directed the jury on Thursday to find the accused not guilty by direction of the trial judge of eight of the charges which pertained to one of the younger children, leaving 42 charges before the court.

Following the verdicts, Judge O’Connor remanded the woman on continuing bail with several strict bail conditions attached, to appear before the court again in April for sentence.

The matter has been listed for mention next Tuesday to confirm the exact sentence date in April.

Judge O’Connor directed victim impact reports regarding the children be prepared for the court prior to sentence.

Six of the woman’s children gave evidence to the trial by video link last week. They all alleged their mother regularly beat them. They said there was no food in the various houses in which they stayed and their mother would regularly go missing, sometimes for days at a time, and would often come back hung over and beat them.

Two of the woman’s sons told the jury their mother forced them to swallow washing-up liquid, while one claimed she pushed him down the stairs twice and then lied to hospital staff about his injuries.

Neighbours described seeing the children malnourished, neglected, poorly dressed and wandering about on their own, sometimes late at night.

The trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court heard evidence that two neighbours regularly fed the woman’s two sons, while one bought them clothes because she felt sorry and wanted to care for them. “They would have runners that were too big for them and there would be holes in them or the soles would be coming off,” she said.

The trial also heard she left the children in the care of strange men.

The court heard the mother told gardaí during interviews she was a good mother who fed and cared for her children.

She said she saw nothing wrong with pouring washing-up liquid into their mouths to discipline them and would slap them with wooden spoons, a wooden back-scratcher or a leather belt.

“My mother washed my mouth out with soap and it did me no harm,” she told gardaí. “It was no more than what was done to me when I was a kid.”