A Clare father who “sacrificed the welfare of his children for alcohol” has been given a four year sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for the neglect and ill treatment of six children. The eldest victim described how she was 10 when she was left to care for her six week old sister. She said the baby slept beside her in a single bed and when she was unable to stop the infant crying during the night the accused hit her in the face.
The now 19-year-old woman also described coming home from school to find the baby alone strapped into a car seat when her parents had gone drinking. She also cared for her other siblings and forged her mother’s signature in shops in order to feed them. The foster parents of some of the children, aged between two and 12 years old at the time they went into care, said they were unable to use cutlery, were not toilet trained or able to shower or use a toothbrush.
The 54 year old man pleaded guilty to eight counts of child cruelty against six children on dates between 2001 and 2010. He is the father of the five younger children. His former partner and mother of all of the children has already received a four year suspended sentence for the same charges.
“In effect the children were rearing themselves without any parental guidance” noted Judge Mary Ellen Ring. She placed the offences at the upper end of the mid range, taking into account the period of the offending and number of children effected. The maximum sentence is seven years. Judge Ring imposed a four year sentence with the final year suspended.
Patrick McGrath SC, defending, said the accused man had written a note in which he said he would like to apologise for the suffering and pain he had caused his children. The man said if he could turn the clock back he would change things and regrets what happened.
Mr McGrath said the accused man began drinking as an 11-year-old and it has had a significant effect on his life. He said the accused and his ex partner had chosen alcohol over the care of their children. He said the accused man is now in a new relationship and is sober since last year. He submitted the accused man had to live with the shame and guilt of what he had done and has made serious attempts to change his life.
By Fiona Ferguson