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Couple found guilty of neglect of 14-month-old baby girl

The jury returned unanimous verdicts after just over one hour of deliberations today.

File photo
File photo
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A COUPLE CHARGED with child cruelty charges in relation to a 14-month-old baby girl have been found guilty by a jury of neglect.

The court heard the baby incurred bruising to her head, face and body while the family stayed overnight at a derelict house after the mother of the child had an argument with her own mother.

The child was seen by doctors who felt the injuries were not consistent with a fall from a mattress as the mother claimed. The child was kept in hospital for observation but no treatment was required.

The 36-year-old mother of the child pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to willful neglect and allowing her child to be harmed at a derelict house on dates between 25 and 27 January, 2016.

Her 38-year-old partner pleaded not guilty to willful assault, willful neglect, and assaulting the child causing her harm on the same occasion.

Following legal argument during the trial, Judge Martina Baxter directed verdicts of not guilty in relation to the charges of willful assault and assault causing harm against the man.

She also directed a verdict of not guilty in relation to the charge of allowing her child to be harmed against the mother.

Reporting restrictions apply to protect the identity of the child who is now in foster care.

After just over one hour of deliberations today, the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts on the two remaining counts of neglect against the man and woman.

Judge Baxter thanked the jury for their service and exempted them from jury duty for three years.

The judge said she would allow the couple to remain on bail, but she adjourned the matter for mention on 11 January to ensure they are cooperating with Probation Services ahead of sentencing next March.

Opening the case late last month, Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, told the jury that the woman and her three children lived with her own mother, the children’s grandmother. At the time the children were aged nine, four and 14 months old.

Rowland said the woman had a “tiff” with her mother on a Monday evening. The following morning when the grandmother got up, the woman and her children were gone. The grandmother had put the 14-month-old to bed the previous night and said she was “unmarked”.

Rowland said on the Tuesday the woman, her partner and the three children attended at a homeless service and were given a meal and bag of groceries. A staff member noticed the 14-month-old was “sobbing” but did not have any marks.

The following day the group returned to the service and the staff member noticed the 14-month old had bruising on her eyes and side of her face that had not been there the previous day.

The child was seen by a nurse and doctor who worked there and sent to Temple Street Hospital.

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The mother said the child had fallen off a mattress on the ground after a soother fell out of her mouth. The doctors felt her injuries, bruising to her face, both sides of her head and to her body. were not consistent with that and not the type to be accidentally incurred.

At the time the mother told a social worker that she had brought the children to stay at her partner’s mother’s house but the family had in fact stayed at a “derelict” house, which belonged to a relative of the woman’s partner. The house had no electricity and no water.

The court heard the woman was arrested and questioned. She told gardai the baby fell off the mattress and also that the older children had been on the cot with her and she may have been injured by them. The man gave the same explanation.

Rowland said the section of the law that the couple were charged under states that if a person fails to provide food, clothing, heating, medical aid or accommodation for a child they are guilty of neglect.

If they are unable to provide it, but fail to take steps to have it provided, they are also guilty.

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Fiona Ferguson

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