The 29-year-old Dublin woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, broke down and wept as Judge Patricia Ryan handed down the sentence in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday.
The court heard that the woman was aware that one of her children, a little girl aged two at the time of the offences, had been seriously sexually assaulted by her partner but she did nothing to protect her child or seek medical attention for her.
This man, who is not the child's father, is wanted for questioning by gardaí and has fled the jurisdiction.
The woman pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless endangerment of her children on dates between April and November 2018 at an address in Dublin. Five further counts of child cruelty were taken into consideration, including one count of the mother punching her son to the face.
Her children were aged two and three at the time of the offending. The woman has no previous convictions.
Sentencing the woman, Judge Ryan said it is clear that the children, who were taken into care, will suffer life-long trauma as a result of the abuse they suffered.
She said the woman failed to get medical attention for her then two-year-old daughter and three-year-old son when they suffered a range of injuries, including a fractured wrist, bite marks and bruising. She noted the woman had admitted to gardaí that she witnessed her daughter being abused by her partner and did nothing about it.
“The children will have difficulties for the rest of their lives as a result of the trauma they sustained,” Judge Ryan said. Handing down a jail term of five years, the judge said: “This matter is so grave, a custodial sentence has to be imposed.”
A local detective sergeant previously told the court the woman has three children - two of whom are the injured parties in the case.
The court heard that the abuse came to light when the woman brought her daughter to hospital with injuries that were not considered by medical staff to be accidental. The toddler had extensive bruising to her body and gardaí and Tusla were informed.
After gardaí and social workers called to the home, they observed the little girl was lethargic and “depressed”, with no energy and was deemed in need of medical attention. The court heard the girl had facial swelling, bruising and symptoms of being grappled with or held firmly.
When doctors attempted to examine her genital area, the mother initially refused to let staff remove her daughter's nappy. When they eventually examined the little girl, they found she had extensive injuries to her vagina.
The woman initially told gardaí this was a result of her partner rubbing the little girl's bottom too vigorously when she had diarrhoea.
Doctors concluded the child had been a victim of physical and sexual abuse and would likely suffer lifelong problems, both physically and mentally. They were unable to say if this significant trauma was caused by an object or the insertion of a part of another person's body, the court heard.
Evidence was given that the boy had been punched and bitten and was bruised when examined. He made reference to “the monster biting him” which was the woman's partner, the court heard. Creche workers expressed concern about the children being covered in bite marks and bruises.
Padraig Dwyer SC, defending, handed in a psychologist report to the court outlining the woman's history. The court heard the woman's father was an alcoholic and she moved away with her mother as a child.
The woman lived abroad for a period of time and was the alleged victim of a rape. The case went to court but both of the accused men were acquitted, Mr Dwyer said.
The woman has a history of drug and alcohol abuse and has had a number of troubled and violent relationships with men, the court heard. The man who allegedly sexually abused her daughter has left the jurisdiction and is “on the run” from the law, Mr Dwyer said.
The mother has shown remorse and insight into her offending, Mr Dwyer said. She “poses no danger to society” and hopes to be reunited with her children one day.
The woman wept in court throughout the sentence hearing.