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ongoing trial Court hears claims child's 'feet burnt with hot knife' at Dublin parents' trial

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Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The teenage sister of a girl allegedly assaulted by her parents has told their trial that the mother told her husband “I told you I was gonna kill her, why didn’t you stop me?”.

The 39-year-old man and 36-year-old woman have pleaded not guilty to two charges of assault causing serious harm to the child and three charges of child cruelty at the family home in Dublin on dates between June 28 and July 2, 2019.

Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, has told the jury that the child sustained a brain injury that prevents her from normal functioning and she is likely to need 24 hour care for the rest of her life. The parents, who are originally from north Africa, cannot be named to protect the identity of the child.

On day five of their trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court the now 14-year-old sister of the complainant told Anne Rowland SC that she and her younger sister lived in their native country until March 2019.

They then travelled to Ireland to join their parents who had moved to Dublin about two years earlier. She said that it was exciting to come to Ireland, but soon after their arrival her parents changed and “started to act different”.

She said her mother used to wake her sister up during the night and begin hitting her. She said her sister wasn't allowed to play outside because she had bruises all over her body.

She said these were bruises from her mother hitting her sister with a belt and sometimes a stick. She said her mother would hit the girl all over her body.

She said she hid the belt once “because I didn't want to see [her sister] get hurt”. She said when their mother found the belt she hit both the girls with it.

She said her mother sometimes punched her in the stomach and once she punched her in the face and caused her lips to bleed.

She said her mother would pull her sister's hair out, leaving bald spots on the girl's head.

The witness said that once she told her mother that her grandfather had told her it's illegal to hit children. She said her mother told her “you’re my daughter and I can do anything I want with you and it's not illegal” and hit her.

She said that her mother was “really mad” on an occasion when her sister wet herself and she forced the child's hand on to a red-hot cooking hob. She said her mother then cuffed the child's hands and her feet together using strong tape before using a hot knife to burn her sister's feet

She said her sister was screaming.

She said she saw her father choking her sister once by holding her up in the air with both hands. She said her sister passed out and their mother was slapping her saying “she's faking it”.

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She said there were other times when her father punched and kicked the complainant. She said on one occasion she locked her into the dark attic for up to half an hour while her sister begged to be let out.

On the morning of July 2 she heard her mother shouting and heard banging and then her mother called her. She saw her sister lying naked and passed out on the floor and slumped up against a wall.

Her mother said that her younger sister had wet the bed and she took her into the shower and that she then peed in the shower and “so she had to get punished”, the witness said.

She said her mother said “we can't let anyone know this”. She said her mother looked scared and said “I'm going to go to jail”.

She said her mother rang her father and said to him “I did it, I told you I was gonna do it, I told you I was gonna kill her, why didn’t you stop me?”.

She said her father arrived home soon after and moved her sister and said “she might get better”.

“They didn't want to call an ambulance,” she told the jury.

She said eventually they did call for an ambulance, but before the ambulance arrived “they said we need to make up a story”.

“I thought it was normal - hitting us and all. I didn't think it was wrong. They told us if you wanna come back with us, they said, not to tell, just say [her sister] fell in the shower, so I did,” she testified.

Under cross-examination she accepted that when she gave this account to gardaí she was lying.

She accepted that she told gardaí that her father “was shocked” and “he stayed quiet a second” during the phone call.

The court heard that she told gardaí that when he arrived home he was shouting to his wife “what did you do to her, why is she so sick, why are there all the marks?, are you crazy?”. The witness told the jury “he didn't say that, I was lying, I was scared”.

She rejected a submission by counsel for the woman that her mother didn't misbehave in the way she had testified, saying “that's a lie”.

She told James Dwyer SC that she had lied to the courts in her native country when she said that her maternal grandfather had hit her because her mother had told her to say that.

“I used to say exactly what my mam told me. I know I shouldn’t have said any of that but I was really young. I used to do exactly what she used to tell me to do,” she said.

She said after this court case she went to live with her paternal grandparents and she was happy there.

The girl, who has been in foster care since mid 2019, rejected a suggestion from defence counsel that she was making up a story to ensure she didn't have to go back to live with her parents.

“I don't want to go back living with them because of what happened,” she said.

She said after what happened her sister she felt guilty.

“I used to cry every night, blaming myself. Why didn't I tell anyone? If I had this wouldn't have happened”.

The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.

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