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Prison not recommended for mother in child neglect case

The Probation Services is recommending that a 22-year-old east Clare woman not be jailed concerning her neglect of a then five-month-old baby who suffered a catalogue of injuries including a skull fracture while in her care.

At Ennis Circuit Court on Wednesday, Judge Gerald Keys said that the Probation Report on the woman recommends that she be placed under the supervision of the Probation Services for a period.

Judge Keys said that the Probation Service report states that in order to assess the risk of re-offending, it was necessary for the services to have contact with the woman and that TUSLA staff engage with the Probation Service to ensure the safety and well being of the baby.

In the case, the mother – then aged 19 – presented to her GP on February 13, 2015 in a distressed state with the baby as her daughter’s left arm wasn’t moving and she had bruising to her face.

Her GP referred the case immediately to the paediatric unit to University Hospital Limerick (UHL). Medics at the University Hospital Limerick UHL) carried out a full skeletal survey of the baby that detected older injuries – a healing fracture of the left tibia – the larger bone on the lower left leg; a healing fracture of the right femur – the thigh bone extending from the hip to the knee – and an older right sided skull fracture.

Medics also detected a torn frenulum- the muscle under the tongue – and the child’s mother said that this could have occurred as a result of forcing a baby’s bottle or a soother into the baby’s mouth.

In the case, the now 22-year-old east Clare woman has pleaded guilty to wilfully assaulting and neglecting the child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary injury to the child’s health and seriously affect her well being.

The woman can’t be named in order to protect the identity of her little girl and the charge is contrary to Section 246 of the Children’s Act.

The offence took on dates between the Summer of 2014 and February 2015.

Counsel for the mother, Patrick Whyms, BL, previously told the court that the State had not proceeded with assault causing harm charge against his client and there was no evidence to support a charge that the mother had deliberately assaulted the baby.

He said: “Throughout the statements in the Book of Evidence, we have stories of people observing this baby treated in a manner which would cause people to recoil.”

Mr Whyms said: “We have nobody saying that they ever saw the mother attempt to deliberately injure this baby.”

He went on: “Of course, this baby has sustained a catalogue of injuries and of course it is the duty of the parents to protect her, but there is no evidence that it was the mother’s purpose to injure the baby. Clearly, the baby has been treated in too rough a fashion by far and has sustained these injuries.”

The mother was diagnosed with suffering from post natal depression in October 2014. The baby is now in the care of the father as a result of a care order and the mother is allowed supervised access.

Consultant paediatrician at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), Dr Barry Linnane provided care to the baby and in evidence previously, Dr Linnane expressed doubt over the explanations given by the mother for the injuries.

Dr Linnane said that the injuries occurred on different dates during the baby’s first five months.

The mother said that the baby had sustained her leg injuries after falling out of a pram and Dr Linnane said: “It is very difficult to understand how a baby could fall from a pram and even if that did happen, you wouldn’t expect two fractures, which were of a different age.”

The mother told Gardaí that the skull fracture may have occurred when the child fell out of a bouncer and hit her head on the wall or may have occurred when she fell on the floor with the baby in her arms.

Again, Dr Linnane said that the two explanations were unlikely to explain the injuries as significant force would be required to cause such an injury.

The mother said that the injury to the arm occurred as a result of her catching the baby’s arm as she fell backwards and Dr Linnane said that this explanation was difficult to understand and unlikely.

Judge Keys adjourned the case for mention to December 18 to fix a date for sentence.

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