Girl neglected by mother ate fish food out of hunger

Judge describes child’s testimony as ‘very moving’ before jailing woman for two years


A judge said his heart was broken on hearing “the very very moving” account of what a child said about how her mother treated her.

Judge Patrick McCartan jailed the mother for two years after he heard her alcohol addiction led to her neglecting her nine-year-old daughter, including leaving her at home alone for four days.

The 53-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the child’s anonymity, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal court to child cruelty between October 10th, 2012 and December 13th, 2012.

Judge McCartan said that this offence fell in the “mid-range “category and it involved the “utter neglect of the needs of a young child.”

The judge said that the problems that had originated in 2012 still persisted as the accused was still drinking and “cannot see clearly ahead of her.”

In a victim impact report written by the now 13-year-old girl she recalled once eating fish food because she was hungry.

She called her mother “unpredictable” and said she was always scared as she didn’t know what would happen next.

She was very lonely in the house on her own so the dog would keep her company when her mother was out.

The court heard that the child has since engaged in self-harming.

Anne Rowland BL prosecuting told the court that the girl pared her fingers with her pencil sharpener and rubbed her hands off towels until they bled.

Severe head lice

Counsel said that a neighbour encouraged the child to come to his home after he discovered she had been left at home alone for a number of days.

“When his partner bathed her in water it turned dark. She had severe head lice and scabbing all over her head. When the neighbour made food she ate it like a savage. The child smelt badly and had bags under eyes and looked very unwell,” said counsel.

The next morning the accused arrived at their house looking for her daughter. She was extremely drunk with a black eye and began kicking in their door.

That same day the man’s partner rang the child’s school principal, who confirmed that the child had been absent from school for two weeks. There were no notes from her mother to explain her absences. The HSE were then contacted.

Later the same day one of the teachers from the child’s school went to the accused home accompanied by gardaí.

The child answered the front door and the accused was standing in the background.There was a smell of alcohol in the house and a broken bottle of vodka on the floor.

Dirty dishes were piled up in the sink and on the worktop. Rubbish was overflowing and stacks of unwashed clothes were on the floor

The mother denied to gardaí that the child had been left alone in the house for four days.


On December 12th, 2012 as a neighbour was walking up the road he saw curtains move in the accused’s bedroom and he thought it was the young child.

He had seen people calling to the front door in the days previously but no one had answered.

When he called to the door, the child opened it and told him that her mother was asleep in bed. She told the man that she did not go to school that day or for the last week.

The court heard that the physical condition of the child was very bad. The child finally told the neighbour that her mother had been gone since the previous Sunday and had told her not to answer the door to anyone.

The child had attempted to make herself some food but had to resort to walking across the counter tops as the floor was too sticky.

The man then encouraged the child to come over to his house and borrowed clothes from a friend who had a child the same age as he noted how filthy she was. The school was then contacted the following day.

Michael Bowman SC defending said that his client struggled with alcohol for a very long period of time and was in an intoxicated state as recently as July this year.

Mr Bowman said that the father of the child was not around and the court was being asked to deal with a period of eight weeks when the mother’s behaviour was “reprehensible.”

“Since she has lost her daughter to social services that has acted as a wake-up call to her,” he said.