The parents of a ten-month-old baby and a two-year-old child who were left unattended in a rubbish-strewn house with open alcohol containers and evidence of cocaine use have been charged with child neglect.
At last week’s Portlaoise District Court, the 31-year-old male and 30-year-old woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, were both charged with three counts of neglecting a child, at a location in Laois on May 13/14, 2018.
Sgt Justine Reilly gave evidence that on May 14, 2018, the man was involved in a road traffic collision in which his four-year-old daughter was not wearing a seat belt. As there were concerns that she may have been injured an ambulance was called and the man was arrested for drink driving.
When the gardaí went to his house they discovered a ten-month-old baby and a two-year-old child alone in the house unsupervised.
The ten-month-old was saturated in urine and the two-year-old was smeared in faeces. Sgt Reilly said there were dirty nappies strewn around and open alcohol containers in the house, as well as evidence of cocaine use.
Fluid was leaking from the ceiling, which Sgt Reilly said was caused by rubbish upstairs.
Sgt Reilly told the court the woman had left the house the night before, leaving the children with the man. Others then arrived at the house for a party.
The man made full admissions to being under the influence of alcohol and cocaine and had been driving while intoxicated.
The woman said there had been an altercation between her and the man and she left the house, leaving the children under his care knowing that he was under the influence of an intoxicant.
The man had 24 previous convictions and the woman had five.
The children were subsequently taken into the care of the State, but because of a change in the couple’s circumstances the children are now back with them and the family are living in Dublin.
Defence for the two accused said there had been a difficulty in the marriage. The woman felt the man was able to look after the children, and the man had intended to go to bed that night but then “the lads landed.”
Remarked Judge Catherine Staines: “He didn’t have to let them in.”
Defence said this was accepted. Defence went on to say that both parties suffered with mental health difficulties, with the woman experiencing postnatal depression after the birth of her first child and the man taking to drink and drugs following difficulties in their marriage.
Since then, both have accepted all the assistance of Tusla. The youngest child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, while the middle child is believed to be autistic.
Defence asked the court to be lenient and said the family has only recently got back together and are reestablishing their lives.
Sgt Reilly confirmed that the family is now under a safety care plan with Tusla.
After hearing the facts, Judge Catherine Staines said this was an absolutely appalling case.
“These are small human beings totally and utterly reliant on the adults who care for them, God knows what damage has been done to them,” said Judge Staines.
Saying she wanted a report from Tusla, the matter was adjourned to July 4 next, with the judge also directing probation reports on the accused. A bail condition imposed on the accused was that they must have absolutely no drink or drugs.