Neglect | 

Dublin drug addict who admitted she 'chose addiction over her kids' avoids jail

The 33-year-old Dublin woman received a fully suspended sentence after a court heard she is 'evidently devoted to the children'

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Isabel Hayes

A drug addict who admitted to neglecting her children has received a fully suspended sentence after a court heard she is “evidently devoted to the children”.

The 33-year-old Dublin woman, who cannot be named to protect the anonymity of her children, told gardaí that “I chose my addiction over my kids”.

She pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two counts of wilfully neglecting her two sons on dates between September 2017 and November 2018. Her children were about 12 and five years old at the time.

Diana Stuart BL, prosecuting, said the woman first came to the attention of Tusla after the children failed to attend school. As a result, social workers started working with the woman to try and overcome her difficulties.

Garda Sergeant Diane Swift outlined a number of instances from a social worker report in which social workers called to the home and observed that the woman appeared to be on drugs.

On occasions she was slurring and unfocused. The children mostly seemed to be in good form, the court heard. However, their school attendance continued to be an issue.

On one occasion during the period in question, a social worker called to the door but there was no answer and the mother was not answering her phone. She called gardaí as she feared the children were in immediate danger.

Upon gaining access to the house, gardaí and the social worker found a 16-year-old girl unconscious on the couch. The older boy was in school, but the 5-year-old was in the house with the unconscious girl. He was wearing only his underpants.

It took gardaí about 10 minutes to rouse the girl, who turned out to be the accused woman's niece. There was almost no food in the house and what was there was gone off. The house was in disarray and the social worker had trouble finding clean clothes to dress the little boy in, the court heard.

When the social worker eventually talked to the mother, she was under the influence of drugs, the court heard. The children were removed from her care by consent and have been cared for by their great-aunt ever since.

The woman told gardaí she loved her children very much and had never intended to neglect them. “I chose my addiction over my kids,” she told gardaí.

In turn, the children “appeared to love and care for their mother very much”, Ms Stuart said.

Anne Rowland SC, defending, said that at the time of the offending, her client was “having trouble coping”. On the day gardaí were called, she submitted the washing machine had broken down, which was why there were no clothes. The 16-year-old girl was supposed to be babysitting the children.

Ms Rowland submitted that this was not a case where the children were underfed or physically hurt. She said they got on very well with their mother and clearly had a good bond with her.

The court heard the woman's first son was born with a disability when she was just 17 years old, but she loved and cared for him through numerous operations. She was in an abusive relationship in recent years and started using drugs again.

The court heard the woman's own mother had drug addiction issues.

Defence submitted that the case had been “over-prosecuted” and could have been dealt with as a school attendance case. However she said her client was extremely remorseful and insisted on pleading guilty to the wilful neglect charges.

Ms Rowland told the court that her client is expecting her first daughter in March and currently has access once a week to her sons.

Sentencing the woman, Judge Melanie Greally noted that there was no evidence of abuse either physical or emotional in this case.

Judge Greally said the background to the defendant's addiction “harks back to difficulties in her own childhood”. She noted the woman has been engaging in services in hope of ultimately resuming full-time responsibilities with the children.

She said the decision to prosecute the woman for child neglect could, on one analysis, be considered “somewhat harsh” in the situation where she was evidently devoted to her children while suffering from an addiction.

Judge Greally sentenced the woman to three months imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in its entirety on strict conditions including that she follow all directions of the Probation Service for 12 months.

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