A woman whom a Judge described as having deprived her children of a childhood yesterday walked free from court after receiving a suspended sentence for child neglect.
At Ennis Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, Judge Carroll Moran said the 38-year-old woman, who last year pleaded guilty to eight counts of child neglect, “lacked fundamental parenting skills and most significantly she lacked empathy for her own child”.
He said reports from the Probation Services and the Health Services Executive (HSE) stated that the woman, who had a serious drink problem, was a completely unsuited to being a mother for her children.
Judge Moran said the woman’s guilty plea was of “special significance” in this case as it spared the victims the additional trauma of having to give evidence.
Her former partner has also pleaded guilty to eight charges of child neglect.
The offences, which relate to seven children, took place on dates unknown between March 2001 and July 2010 in two areas of Clare.
The eldest child is now 17 while the youngest child is now four.
The court heard that the woman is the mother of all seven children. The man is the natural father of six of the children.
Judge Moran said evidence had been given that the couple spent prolonged periods in the pub indulging in alcohol while the children were abandoned at home.
He said there was insufficient food in the house and sometimes none at all.
He said the children were left with inadequate and dirty clothing. He said that at the age of eight, the eldest child had been forced to be a surrogate mother to her infant sibling.
Judge Moran said the man would beat the girl if the baby cried at night. He said the mother admitted beating the girl with a poker and a shoe causing multiple bruises.
The children have since been placed in foster care, the court heard. He said the children had been under threat from their parents not to tell social workers about their ordeal.
The court heard the woman had started drinking aged 13 and was a victim of domestic violence.
She has been off drink for five years and is in a new relationship, the court heard.
In her victim statement read out in court earlier this month, the eldest daughter emotionally urged the Judge to send her mother to jail, describing her as “vermin”.
“They should rot in hell,” she added.
Judge Moran said the former couple had engaged “dreadful misbehaviour” and had deprived the children of a childhood.
He said the children had been left “severely traumatised” by their experiences.
Judge Moran said the woman had no previous convictions and made a serious attempt to deal with her alcoholism.
He said she had entered an early plea. Judge Moran said that in these “exceptional circumstances” it would not be right to impose a custodial sentence.
He imposed a four-year sentence, suspending it for seven years.
The woman was ordered to abstain from alcohol and cooperate with the directions of the HSE and Probation Services.
Reporting restrictions were previously placed on the case.

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A native of Ennis, Ronan Judge completed his Journalism and Communications Diploma course at Griffith College. The Clare People is his first newspaper appointment. Contact Ronan on [email protected]

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