Woman found not guilty of abducting her own child
Woman imprisoned since July had barring order against husband who was given son
Giving evidence, the woman said she lived in fear of her husband from the start of her marriage and sought shelter in the women’s refuge on five different occasions.
A woman has been found not guilty of abducting her own child by taking him out of the country.
Judge Thomas E O’Donnell on Friday described the case at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee as “a very unusual prosecution”.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had taken her son abroad in defiance of a Family Court guardianship order which allowed the father access. She was arrested and taken into custody in the UK in July. The child was given to the father’s care and the mother was extradited to Ireland in November. The charge was brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions under the Non-fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
The jury of six men and six women heard that in June 2016 the woman took a flight with her child from Dublin Airport without the consent of her husband or the court. Her former husband said he had been granted access to the child two days a week with telephone access also. The child was not to be removed from the State without his or the court’s consent.
The court heard he came to Kerry as a single man in 2002 and in 2004 left to marry the woman, who was 17 at the time and arrived in Ireland in 2006.
The woman obtained a safety order under the Domestic Violence Act against her husband in 2009, and a barring order for three years against him in 2014, Det Garda Brian Mackey told the court.
They separated in 2013. In 2014, the court heard, he divorced her in their home country without informing her.
The woman said she lived in fear of her husband from the start of the marriage and sought shelter in the women’s refuge on five occasions and was granted custody of the child in June 2015.
She had said her husband beat her while she was breastfeeding. He was also alleged to have kept her child benefit and would not allow her to contact home.
She admitted taking the child out of the country but said she never intended to stay away and did not realise she needed the court’s consent.
The man told the court he believed the problems with his wife were family issues and she should not have gone to the refuge or gardaí. He denied bullying or abusing her and said bruising noted by gardaí in 2009 arose from the woman banging into walls.
The judge told the jury this was the first such prosecution he had ever dealt with. He asked them to put their emotions aside. They must also put aside cultural issues, he said, and any sympathy about the fact the woman has been in custody since July and had not seen her son.
The woman, who clutched a prayer book and a handkerchief throughout the hearing, cried after the verdict was delivered.
Asked what she would do now, she said the women’s refuge would help her and that she hoped she would finally see her son. As the court emptied, prison service staff and her legal team were helping her to sort her possessions in a large plastic bag.