A three-year-old boy was found by gardaí shivering with the cold in a cabin at the back of a derelict house in Cork city while his mother and her partner were visibly involved in the taking of heroin.
Judge Colm Roberts said it spoke volumes that the mother and her partner had been allocated money for accommodation in Cork but were keeping it to make trips to Dublin to buy more heroin.
Garda Alison O’Flynn had been looking for the child and the child’s sister after relatives of the children’s mother had notified her that they had not seen the children in months and they were very concerned about their welfare.
Garda Judith Notley testified at Cork District Court that she found the three-year-old boy with his mother and the mother’s partner in a cabin at the back of a derelict house on November 24 2017. The cabin was surrounded by piles of rubbish and builder’s rubble. In the cabin there was no electricity, heating or running water.
“I initially observed (Child’s name). He was shivering. He was very cold. No shoes, no socks on his feet. He was wearing a very light jumper. His pants were heavily soiled. He was in serious and immediate danger. His guardians neglected to keep proper care of him. I placed him in the rear of the patrol car due to my concerns and my observations. He was highly aggressive and very distressed. He was three at the time,” Garda Notley said.
She said the cabin was unsafe and unhygienic and that there was water spurting on to open wires. Judge Roberts said, “Clearly, the place was unsafe, unhygienic and an immediate risk to the child.”
Joseph Cuddigan, defence solicitor, said the reason the young woman was pleading not guilty to the charge of child neglect was because she had repeatedly requested the child would be taken off her by the state but it did not happen until the day Garda Notley found the boy in November 2017.
Judge Roberts asked, “Was the child on the At-risk Register?”
Garda Alison O’Flynn replied, said, “The social worker did not have concerns for the safety of the children at the time.”
Judge Roberts said, “I would not be shocked at all. Depending on where you are in the country, active use of heroin may or may not be regarded as a child care issue. I would have my own view of it.”
Garda O’Flynn told Inspector Denis Lynch, who prosecuted the case today, that the child’s mother was an active drug user at the time. Tinfoil and needles were found around the cabin.
Garda O’Flynn said the defendant’s daughter was also her partner’s child but he was not the father of the boy who was with them in the cabin three years ago.
Garda O’Flynn said the paternal grandfather of the girl was prepared to mind the girl but not the boy as the boy was not his son’s own child and not a blood relative.
The defendant – the children’s mother – said both children were now in care and she had access to them once a week, that she was off drugs, is about to go into residential treatment and that there are plans for her to reunify with her children after her residential treatment.
Denying child neglect on the date in question, November 25, 2017, the defendant disputed aspects of the evidence. She said her son was not in soiled clothes and said, “He pissed himself when he saw the gardaí”.
She said they had only been in the cabin for one night.
Judge Roberts found the facts proven. He complimented the professionalism of the gardaí in arranging to have the children correctly taken into care.
The defendant said, “I want to thank the guards for taking them into care. I was trying to get them into care. If I thought the guards could take them into care I would have taken them to the guards myself.”
Finding the facts proven the judge put the case back for two months. The parties cannot be identified under legal restrictions imposed by The Children’s Act.