Mother who left children home alone locked in bedrooms is jailed for six months

Judge said case was the ‘most harrowing case I have dealt with in the last ten years’

A young mother who left three children under the age of eight locked into bedrooms in a house on their own and ended up being arrested for drink-driving has been jailed for six months.

As the woman was jailed for child cruelty at Cork District Court on Friday, Judge Olann Kelleher described it as the "most harrowing case I have dealt with in the last 10 years".

The woman - who cannot be named in order to protect the identify of the children - was sentenced to three concurrent six-month jail terms for cruelty to each of her children on a date in August last year.

A garda arrived at the house in the early hours of the morning and heard the children inside crying for help. He had to force his way in.

The judge said when the garda entered the house, the children were in dark bedrooms locked from the outside. He found a child’s potty overflowing with urine.

“The older child got upset. She got so upset she thought she was going to be kidnapped. She has now taken on a parental role (with her two younger siblings) ... she should not have to do this.

“She was able to roleplay (for social workers) the guard coming up the stairs. Obviously it is still in her mind. She says her mother locks the doors most nights even when she begs her not to do so.”

Previous conviction

Defence solicitor Eugene Murphy said the mother, who has a previous conviction for cruelty to her children in similar circumstances, had been addicted to prescription tablets and alcohol but had since undertaken life-changing rehabilitation and loved her children deeply.

While this is her second conviction for child cruelty, the judge noted that she was in a crash in 2014 after she had been drinking and her two children at the time were unsupervised. There was another crash in June 2017 when it was discovered her children were unsupervised. The case before the court on Friday related to a similar scenario on August 5th, 2018.

Judge Kelleher said the defendant had pleaded guilty and has made efforts to deal with her addiction, even though she was not always successful.

“The children suffered very badly. They had no choice in this matter. They just had to take it. To put locks on the doors outside was premeditated by the mother. The court must do their best to protect the vulnerable, young people and older people,” he said.

Mr Murphy said his client, who pleaded guilty, was attending parenting courses, addiction treatment, and the probation service.

“This lady is damaged by what happened. She loves her children deeply… and the children are extremely close to her and get on extremely well with her,” he said.