reprehensible  | 

Mother who drove home drunk from party with her two young children may have charges dropped

The woman's car was pulled over after a garda witnessed it being driven on the wrong side of the road
Stock photo

Stock photo

Declan Brennan and Sonya McLean

A healthcare student who drove home drunk from a friend's house party with her young children in the back of the car may have charges of child neglect against her dropped if she engages with the Probation Service.

Lawyers for the mother-of-two told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court at a hearing last November that it was the woman's “first time out in years, literally”, and she had arranged to stay overnight with her children.

Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, said that people had gone to bed when one of the children became unsettled. The woman rang a taxi, but then realised she had no money to pay the fare and made the decision to “get in that car” and drive home, counsel said.

He said she now knows her behaviour on the night was reprehensible and she regrets it.

Garda Lee Kelly told the court he pulled the woman's car over at around 4am on the night of September 1, 2019, after seeing the car swerving across the road and driving on the wrong side of the road.

He said the woman was co-operating initially, but Gda Kelly smelled alcohol and noticed she was slurring her words. He asked her about this and she then became abusive towards gardaí.

He said she began screaming at her two children, saying “this is your f***ing fault” and instructing them to get out of the car. The children were around four and six years old and the woman cannot be named to protect their anonymity.

Gda Kelly said the children were crying and screaming and pleading with gardaí not to arrest their mother.

Gardaí waited until the woman's father arrived at the roadside scene to take the children. They then brought the woman into custody. She later refused to take a breathalyser test and continued to abuse gardaí.

A Tusla investigation subsequently deemed the incident as neglect, but did not identify any other child welfare issues and the children are still with the woman.

The woman (34) pleaded guilty to two charges of child neglect contrary to the Children Act, 2001 and one of refusing to give a sample, contrary to the Road Traffic Act, 2010.

Her two other convictions are for public order offences.

Gda Kelly agreed with Mr Le Vert that the woman has since apologised to gardaí for her behaviour on the night.

Mr Le Vert said that his client was a single mother who in 2019 began studying to be a carer, including palliative care. He said that she is, by all accounts, an extremely caring, sweet person who had gone to her friend's birthday party on the night of the offence and had not planned to drive home.

Counsel asked Judge Melanie Greally to consider applying Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which allows the court to discharge an accused person from an indictment.

He said that a conviction for child neglect would likely prevent her from employment as a carer, and “God knows we could use more carers at this point”.

Judge Greally noted from various reports and testimonials, including an assessment from Tusla, before the court that it was “an isolated incident” when the woman’s standard of care for her children “fell very below what was acceptable”.

She said because the woman was “generally speaking, a very good mother to her children”, she believed it would be too harsh to leave her with a conviction for child neglect.

“For her children to observe that standard of behaviour is totally unacceptable,” Judge Greally said before she accepted it “was not a true reflection of the kind of care which she generally demonstrates towards her two children”.

Judge Greally said she would set a headline sentence of nine months in prison but took into account various mitigating factors including her employment history, excellent testimonials, lack of previous convictions and remorse, before she indicated that a sentence of six months would be appropriate.

However, the judge said she would consider discharging the woman from the indictment as per Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 and fine her €100 in relation to the counts of child neglect should she engage with the Probation Service satisfactorily for three months.

Judge Greally adjourned the case to May 5 and ordered a report from the Probation Service for that date. She disqualified the woman from driving for four years for refusing give a sample to gardaí.

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