Mother of five convicted of child cruelty

Central Criminal Court
Central Criminal Court

A mother of five has been convicted of child cruelty following a seven week trial which heard dozens of allegations of horrific sexual abuse against her youngest son.

The 38 year old woman, who is from the UK, has already been found not guilty of sex assault relating to allegations she had sex or simulated sex with her child when he was between six and seven.

On Friday the jury convicted the woman's 64 year old partner, who is also from the UK, of nine counts of raping his son from the age of six years old and child cruelty. They acquitted him of raping the child with a poker.

The child gave evidence that it was his father who raped and beat him and locked him in a box for six hours. The charge of cruelty which the woman was convicted of was a general charge of allowing the abuse to happen at the hands of her partner.

The boy's father faced nine counts of raping the boy, nine counts of raping the boy with a poker and one count of cruelty. The mother faced two counts of sexual assault relating to allegations she had sex with the boy and one count of cruelty.

Both parents had pleaded not guilty to the allegations which are alleged to have occurred between 2009 and 2011 in their Waterford home.

The parents had originally faced a total of 82 charges but 60 of these were withdraw last week following legal argument.

After the jury delivered its final verdict Mr Justice Robert Eagar indicated he intended to grant the woman bail until sentencing. However gardaí “strongly” objected, saying the woman was a flight risk.

Her partner was remanded in custody on Friday after his conviction. He will be sentenced on July 11th, next. Prosecuting counsel Pauline Walley SC said the woman's partner was her only tie to Ireland and now that he has been jailed gardaí believe she may flee.

A Waterford garda told the court the woman has four other children who are in care and who she has no contact with. Most of the rest of her family, including her mother, live in the UK.

The family home where the abuse occurred has since been sold and the woman lives in rented accommodation in another county. The garda said she has no means to support herself in Ireland. Her partner had been receiving social welfare but payments stopped before the trial.

In support of bail, the woman's defence counsel said she has surrendered her passport to gardaí and her partner is willing to keep paying her rent from custody.

Mr Justice Eagar said in light of the garda objections he would remand the woman in custody. She will be sentenced separately from her partner on July 4th.

The child had told gardaí that his mother willingly “had sex” with him while his father watched and filmed it. However during evidence at trial he said his mother had been forced to have sex with him by the father and she complied because he threatened to kick her out of the house if she didn't.

The boy told the jury he loved his mother and that she was a nice woman. He said that when he told her he had been raped by his father she gave out to the man.

After the child was taken into care just before his eighth birthday his mother continued to have access visits with him. These visits ceased when the child was sent to the UK to receive specialised residential care because of his sexualised behaviour.

The seven week trial heard often harrowing evidence including allegations that the child's father filmed the child having sex with the mother and showed the footage to people who visited the house.

Other allegations heard by the jury included that the father defecated on the child and threatened to kill him while holding a gun to his head.

The child was taken into care just before his eighth birthday after telling his teacher his father had been beating him and he “couldn't take it anymore.”

He was sent to a foster home where widespread sexual abuse occurred. The boy was sexually abused by another boy while in foster care. A third child is awaiting sentence for sexual abuse he carried out in the house.

The boy was sent to another foster home after about a year. He trusted his new foster parents and said he felt safe enough there to begin disclosing the abuse he suffered. His foster mother recorded the allegations in detailed daily logs which she handed over to gardaí.

While in the second foster home the boy began displaying highly disturbing and sexualised behaviour. He made sexual threats to the mother when he got upset, was found interfering with animals and seemed to have a obsession with faeces.

His foster mother told the trial she loved the boy dearly but couldn't handle his behaviour. The HSE was forced to send him to the UK for specialised residential treatment as no such treatment was available in Ireland. The last thing he said to his foster mother before leaving was “I feel like a dog that nobody wants.”

The now 12 year old remains in the care unit. He gave evidence via video-link from a room in the Old Bailey in London. Several concessions were made for the child witness under the new EU directive on victims rights.

Barristers did not wear wigs or gowns and the boy did not have to take an oath. Instead Mr Justice Eagar asked him if he knew the different between telling the truth and telling lies.

The child also had an intermediary with him who would explain questions and help clarify his answers. This was the first time such a measure was used in an Irish court.

The boy's allegations formed the vast bulk of the evidence against his father. The judge told jurors that there was no corroborative evidence from anyone who may have witnessed the abuse.

He said the law has traditionally thought it dangerous to convict without corroborative evidence but said the jury could return guilty verdicts if they believed the child.

Gardaí found no fire poker or videos of sexual abuse during two searches of the home. They did find a video of the parents engaging in consensual sexual activity with another woman.

A medical examination of the child found no signs of abuse but the examining doctor pointed out that most sexual abuse does not leave lasting injuries and the examination was conducted three months after the child was taken out of the family home.

There were several inconsistencies in the child's evidence and his testimony differed in places to the statement he had made to gardaí. He had told gardaí his mother was a willing participant in the abuse but in court he said she was forced to do it by his father and she complied because “she didn't want to become homeless.”

The prosecution asked the jury to consider if these inconsistencies were evidence of lying or of a child trying to “block out” what happened to him “half a lifetime ago.”

Both parents denied the abuse in interview. The father said the boy was a difficult child who had ADHD and social workers had “brainwashed” the boy into making the allegations.

The father's defence counsel suggested there was “a kernel of truth” to this belief. He used his closing speech to criticise the social workers for failing to tell gardaí the boy had retracted his allegations in February 2015.

Gardaí only found this out earlier this year. When they went to reinterview the boy he said the abuse did happen and he only said it didn't because he didn't want to go through with the trial.

By Conor Gallagher