Judge says recordings of man’s threats to elderly mother ‘nauseating’

Gardaí removed woman from her home recently due to medical, safeguarding concerns

A man was secretly recorded threatening  his elderly mother, who has advanced dementia, and calling her names, the High Court has heard. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

A man was secretly recorded threatening his elderly mother, who has advanced dementia, and calling her names, the High Court has heard. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien


A man was secretly recorded telling his elderly mother, who has advanced dementia, that he would “f***ing kick you hard” and describing her as “brain dead”, a “retard” and a “tramp”, a court has heard.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who has placed the woman under interim court protection pending inquiry as to whether she should be made a ward of court, described the content of the exchanges as “nauseating” and the “worst I have ever seen” in his years on the bench.

He said nobody should speak to an elderly ill person like that and that to think her own son, whom she had given birth to, would do so was “revolting”.

Whatever about the healthcare qualifications her son pointed to having, there had, in light of the recording, to be a “question mark about his ability to treat his mother with care and kindness”, Mr Justice Kelly said.

The recording was made by the woman’s daughter who had concerns for her mother’s physical, emotional and financial health and safety. Exchanges were recorded at home in recent weeks between her brother and their mother and father.

During those exchanges both parents at stages asked the son to leave the house and also indicated undermining by him of home helps, the judge noted.

The judge was also concerned that a surgeon, who late last year performed a hip fusing procedure on the woman, had said he is “baffled” as to how her hip had since become dislocated. The surgeon expressed the view that it could only have happened as a result of trauma, Mr Justice Kelly noted.


A public health nurse who recently visited the woman at home had found her in an unkempt and unwashed state, expressing pain and lying in a urine-soaked bed.

The nurse said that when she sought to change the bed, the woman’s son and husband opposed that, the judge noted.

Due to medical and safeguarding concerns, the woman was removed by gardaí and fire brigade members from her home to hospital in recent weeks to remain there.

The judge on Friday granted the HSE ex parte orders (one side only represented) restraining her son and husband interfering with the woman’s care in hospital.

The orders were returned to Monday when her son told the judge he was “absolutely ashamed” of the content of the recording but he did not recall saying much of what was said and it was an “isolated” incident.

He said “underlying issues” built up when caring for someone with dementia, and he was otherwise offering very good care to his mother who he said is becoming increasingly dependent.

None of his other siblings provide care for her and he wanted an opportunity to inform the court in detail about the level of care being provided at home for her, he said. He has various qualifications, including in naturopathy, he added.


He “absolutely refuted” concerns by his sister that his giving certain medication to his mother while she was in hospital caused her to suffer a diabetic ketacidosis episode.

He said, due to his care, she had not suffered such episodes at home and only suffered them in hospital. He had been praised for his treatment of her pressure sores, he said.

His father told the judge his son was offering “absolutely wonderful” care to his mother, has done “wonders” for her diabetes and she “idolises the ground he (her son) walks on”.

The father said he and his wife have been married many decades and he sometimes uses the word “bitch” to her when she gets “irritated”. Due to her dementia, she does not notice she is being addressed like that, he said.

Both men sought an opportunity to instruct solicitors and provide sworn statements setting out their response to the concerns raised. The judge adjourned the matter to facilitate that and, on consent, continued orders for the woman to remain in hospital and restraining her son and husband interfering with her care there.