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Mum gave her 'profoundly disabled daughter a toxic level of sedative', court hears

Bernadette Scully
Bernadette Scully

A manslaughter trial has been told that an Offaly GP gave her 11-year-old, disabled daughter a toxic level of a sedative before taking an overdose herself.

The Central Criminal Court jury was hearing the opening speech in the trial of 58-year-old Bernadette Scully.

Ms Scully is charged with unlawfully killing Emily Barut at their home at Emvale, Bachelor’s Walk, Tullamore.

It’s alleged that she killed her by an act of gross negligence involving the administration of an excessive quantity of chloral hydrate on September 15th, 2012. She has pleaded not guilty and went on trial this morning.

Tara Burns SC opened the case for the State, telling the jury that the prosecution had to prove that Ms Scully had a duty of care to the deceased on the basis of being both her mother and GP and that she was in breach of that duty.

She said the prosecution’s case was that there was gross negligence.

She said that Ms Scully would have realised, if she thought about it at all, that there was a risk of harm.

She explained that Emily was born with profound physical and learning disabilities, including microcephaly and epilepsy, and that her mother had acted as her GP throughout her life.

“Emily was very well cared for at home,” she said.

She said that, two weeks before her death, Emily had a surgical procedure to replace a peg in her stomach, through which she was fed and given her medication.

She was in a lot of pain and sleeping poorly following this. She said that Ms Scully was in an exhausted state as a result.

She said that on September 15th, Ms Scully sent her partner to the pharmacy for anti-depressants and sedatives. He hadn’t seen Emily before going.

When he returned, she sent him out for food. He still hadn’t seen Emily when Ms Scully went to have a sleep that afternoon.

He found Ms Scully in a deep sleep around 7pm, but didn’t wake her.

He checked on Emily two hours later and found her cold. He called an ambulance and both mother and daughter were taken to hospital, where Emily was pronounced dead.

“Ms Scully had taken an overdose,” she explained.

A post-mortem exam was carried out on Emily and a metabolite of a sedative, chloral hydrate, was found in her blood at a level of 200 micrograms per ml.

Ms Burns said that, if given at the correct dose, a level of between 10 and 20 micrograms would be expected.

“But 200 was found. You’ll hear that level is beyond the therapeutic level and within the toxic range,” she said.

The cause of death was given as chloral hydrate intoxication.

Ms Burns said that Ms Scully went to a garda station a few days later and gave an account of what had happened in the early hours of that Saturday.

She said that Emily was upset, crying in pain and woke at 2am and 6am. She administered chloral hydrate both times.

She said Emily had a significant fit at 11am and that she gave her chloral hydrate again.

“She accepted she gave her too much,” said Ms Burns.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven women and five men.