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Trial latest Gardai deny mother accused of child abuse made 'dangerously unreliable' admissions, trial hears

The Central Criminal Court trial heard last week that the 34-year-old mother made a number of admissions to gardaí in relation to abusing some of her children

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A garda detective has denied that a mother accused of abusing her children made “dangerously unreliable” admissions when interviewed by gardaí, a trial has heard.

The Central Criminal Court trial heard last week that the 34-year-old mother made a number of admissions to gardaí in relation to abusing some of her children.

The woman has pleaded not guilty to 25 charges including sexual assault, sexual exploitation and wilful neglect of a child at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.

Reporting restrictions are in place to protect the welfare and identities of the children.

The court has heard the woman was interviewed six times by gardaí over a two day period following her arrest in 2018, two years after her children had been taken into care.

Under questioning from Dean Kelly SC, defending the mother, on Monday, the detective garda who carried out the interviews said she was aware the woman had a mild intellectual disability and that she structured the interview process around her needs as a result.

She agreed that this included asking a number of questions at the beginning of the interview process about the difference between truth and lies, questions which Mr Kelly said would normally be asked of a child interviewee.

“We made sure she understood the caution, which was very important,” the garda said. “(We made sure) that she was fully aware that anything she said could be used in evidence.”

Mr Kelly said that during the first four interviews and for the first half of the fifth interview, the woman made “fulsome and forceful denials”.

When the mother started making admissions in the second half of the fifth interview, “the pattern of these admissions is deny, deny, deny and then finally accept something,” Mr Kelly said.

He said gardaí would ask the woman questions around these admissions before putting new allegations to her. The mother would again “deny, deny, deny before finally accepting the truth”, Mr Kelly said.

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The garda agreed that this was how the interview went. She denied finding the process “exasperating”.

Mr Kelly submitted that “what went on over those two days with [the mother] was a robust and vigorous interrogation”.

“It wasn't robust for the whole duration,” the garda replied. “But you had to challenge her and be robust and vigorous.”

Mr Kelly submitted the gardaí asked questions about the woman's personal life that were “well beyond the line of what is appropriate or acceptable”.

The garda denied this and denied asking questions that would “mortify and humiliate” the woman.

Mr Kelly put it to the garda that the woman made admissions that were “completely at odds” with what the children alleged. He suggested this should have raised a “very high level of alert and concern that the things [she] was telling you were not reliable and not true”.

The garda said she had no such concerns. She said gardaí were dealing with the accounts of young children who may not be able to remember all of the allegations and everything that happened to them.

“[The mother] has provided an account. She was the adult,” she said.

She said the woman was “more than capable of understanding and answering the questions put to her”.

Mr Kelly put it to the garda that the word 'adult' presumed a degree of intellectual strength that the mother in this case lacked.

“She has a mild disability,” the garda replied. “She is a fully functioning adult.”

She disagreed with Mr Kelly's submission that the woman's account was “dangerously unreliable”.

“She provided an account of what happened to us in detail,” the garda said.

Under questioning from prosecution counsel, the garda agreed that the woman had 11 consultations with her solicitors during the course of her detention. A solicitor was present with her for every garda interview, the court heard.

A garda member in charge checked on the woman's welfare regularly during the interview process, the garda said. At no point did the woman make a complaint about how she was treated, the court heard.

The six family members, who can't be named for legal reasons, are accused of abusing three children between 2014 and 2016. The accused are the parents, aunts and uncles of the children. They range in ages from 27 to 56 and live in various locations in Munster.

The parents are also accused of neglecting five of their children. All of the accused have denied the charges against them.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury.

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