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'sad case' Couple who lied about bruises on baby given suspended sentences

The bruising was discovered by staff at a homeless centre in 2016

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A couple who failed to obtain medical aid for a baby who received extensive bruising and then lied about what happened to her have been given suspended sentences for child cruelty.

The court heard the 14-month-old baby girl incurred bruising to her head, face and body when her mother took her three children to stay with her partner at a derelict house after she had a row with her own mother.

The baby's bruising was spotted by concerned staff at a day centre for homeless people in January 2016, when the couple claimed she had fallen off a mattress.

The child was seen by doctors who believed the injuries were non-accidental. The child was kept in hospital for observation but no further treatment was required.

The couple, who are still together, stood trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last December. The 36-year-old mother pleaded not guilty to wilful neglect and allowing her child to be harmed at a derelict house on dates between January 25 and 27, 2016.

Her 38-year-old partner pleaded not guilty to wilful assault, wilful neglect, and assaulting the child causing her harm on the same occasion.

Following legal argument during the trial, Judge Martina Baxter directed verdicts of not guilty in relation to the charges of wilful assault and assault causing harm against the man.

She also directed a verdict of not guilty in relation to the charge of the woman allowing her child to be harmed against the mother.

The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict in relation to the wilful neglect charges. Reporting restrictions apply to protect the identity of the child, who is now in care.

Passing sentence today, Judge Martina Baxter said the mother took her children out of their grandmother's home, where they were warm and cared for, to a derelict house, where the child was then injured. She said they then tried to hide what had happened to the child before giving a series of reasons as to how she may have been injured.

“A serious aggravating factor is the number of explanations given, which were clearly lies,” the judge said.

Judge Baxter said it was clear the mother and her partner were leading chaotic lives at the times, with homelessness and addiction issues.

“Unfortunately their chaotic lifestyle had consequences on the children,” the judge said. The court heard the baby and her two older siblings are now being cared for by extended family members and the mother has not contested this.

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The mother put her partner before her children, Judge Baxter said. “It's a truly sad case.”

She noted the couple are now drug-free and living in permanent accommodation.

Judge Baxter sentenced the woman's partner to two years imprisonment, which she suspended in full on a number of conditions.

She sentenced the mother to three years imprisonment, which she also suspended in full. “She was the mother of this little infant, who was reliant on her for everything,” the judge said.

At a previous sentencing hearing, Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, told the court the state did not have a victim impact report in circumstances where the child had recovered from her injuries with no adverse consequences and was now in a place of safety.

A prosecuting gardai told Ms Rowland that the mother left her own mother's home after a row and went with her partner and children to a house which was semi-derelict and had no electricity or running water.

The family attended the following day at a homeless service and obtained food. They returned the next day and a staff member noticed bruising on the baby. The mother said she fell from a mattress.

The resident nurse came to look and said she had to “encourage and coax” the mother to have a resident doctor look at the child. A taxi was arranged to a children's hospital and doctors there examined the child.

The mother again said she fell from a bed. She said the child had not vomited or lost consciousness and she had watched her during the night.

A consultant paediatrician said the child had extensive bruising on her body and the bruising - particularly in locations such as her head, ears and back - was not the type to be accidentally incurred.

The mother has a number of previous convictions for theft and public order offences. Her partner has previous convictions for drug offences, failing to appear, begging and theft.

Roderick O'Hanlon SC, defending the man, said the woman had vacated her previous accommodation and was effectively homeless so the man had offered a roof over their heads, but it was clearly not appropriate to accommodate children.

He said the man had no previous experience with parenting and submitted that no medical treatment was actually required in the end with the condition best treated by rest.

Paul Greene SC, defending the mother, said she had not interfered with protection proceedings taken after this event in relation to having the children taken into care.

He said this episode had been the start of a chaotic period in his client's life but she is actively addressing her risk factors including substance misuse and secure accommodation.

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