A woman and her partner will be sentenced later for the rape and abuse of her five-year-old daughter and three-and-half year-old son.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the girl’s foster parents became concerned when on first arriving to their home as a six-year-old child, she approached her foster father and tried to undo the belt of his trousers.
A statement from that foster mother said that within a matter of weeks the girl disclosed “the most unimaginable abuse” to them and they in turn reported it to the gardaí.
The investigating gardaí outlined that abuse to Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting, at the sentence hearing on Monday.
This included an incident in which the then five-year-old girl said she was called into the bedroom by her mother to perform oral sex on the woman’s partner.
During this incident the child was also sexually assaulted by her mother and made touch her mother’s “private area”, the garda said.
Tied to chair
The girl also recalled being tied to a chair while her mother and the man went to the pub. When asked by gardaí how she was tied to the chair, she said she had been glued to it.
The court heard that the girl’s younger brother later disclosed that after his sister was taken into care, he was awoken by the man during the night and made to perform oral sex on him. He was three and half years old at the time.
The children’s 40-year-old mother and 52-year-old partner stood trial last year having denied a number of offences including rape, oral rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, reckless endangerment and false imprisonment of the children at two locations in Connacht on dates between October 2012 and September 2014.
Following a six-week trial, the man was convicted last November of one count of raping the girl, six counts of oral rape and one count of falsely imprisoning her.
He was found guilty of one charge of oral rape, one charge of anal rape and one charge of sexually assaulting the young boy.
In relation to her daughter, the mother was convicted of four counts of sexually assaulting her, four counts of sexual exploitation, four counts of oral rape (on the basis of joint enterprise), one count of false imprisonment and one count of reckless endangerment.
In relation to her son, the woman was convicted of one count of reckless endangerment.
The court heard that the woman has a total of seven children, one of whom is now an adult. All the other children are now in State care.
The foster mothers of the two children prepared victim impact statements for the court hearing, which were handed in along with reports from social workers.
The first foster mother, who took the girl in aged six, as her first foster placement, recalled that after the incident where she tried to undo the belt of her foster father’s trousers, the woman ensured that the child was never alone with her husband. She said she kept this in place for the eight years the child lived with them.
She said when the little girl first arrived, she had no control over her bladder or her bowel and would often soil herself.
She would also find the child playing in her bedroom in the middle of the night as the child had trouble sleeping.
The woman said, the little girl behaved more like a three-year-old than a six-year-old which stopped her making friends with peers, and she was also drawn to men in any situation where they went out.
This family also fostered the young boy. He was four years old when he came to live with them and the woman reported that he couldn’t walk or talk properly and “went to the toilet wherever he was”.
He would wake in the middle of the night screaming from night terrors.
She said what he suffered was “horrific and brutal and at the hands of those who should have been his protectors”.
The boy is now in his first year of secondary school and doing very well. He told his foster mother he is glad his mother and the man are in prison “so they can’t do the same to any other children” and he hopes they stay there.
He tells his foster family that they saved his life. His foster mother described the boy as a very well-mannered young man and she said they are very proud of him.
The girl moved to another foster home as a young teenager and that woman stated in her victim impact statement that the girl behaves “younger than her years” describing her as “dancing wildly in her bedroom oblivious to her surroundings” which she suspected was a method the girl uses to “regulate her emotions”.
The girl tells her that dancing like this “helps to take away the pain from the top of my head”.
The foster mother said the teenager often “seems lost in her own thoughts” and seeks solace and comfort in her bedroom, though she struggles with sleep.
She said the girl found it very difficult, during the trial, to watch the video of herself as young girl speaking to specialist gardaí, and she is relieved the trial is over.
“She is now learning to be more independent. She has gained a pride in herself. She will always struggle, but she is looking forward to her future. We will continue to love and support her until she is strong enough to live independently,” the woman concluded.
The court heard that the two children, who are now aged 15 and 12 years old, were four and just over a year old when the two accused met in 2011. They have an older brother who was also living with their mother at the time.
The court heard that social workers had already been assigned to the woman at that time as there were concerns for the children.
The woman and her three children moved in with the accused shortly after their first meeting and the couple went on to have three children together.
In October 2013, the woman ended up in a refuge and told social workers she was unable to care for her two eldest children - her older boy and the female victim in this case. She told social workers she found herself hitting the children for no good reason.
The children were taken into foster care and found to have severe developmental delays and behaviour problems.
It was soon after going into care that the girl disclosed the abuse, and she was first interviewed by specialist garda interviewers in 2014.
During that interview, she told gardaí that the man made her put his private in her mouth and put his private in her private.
She said this happened in the bathroom of the home of the man’s friend. She described incidences of oral rape as “the umbrella thing” and outlined on other occasions that she was abused in this way.
In a second interview, she outlined the incident when her mother called her into her bedroom and asked her to perform oral sex on the man.
The garda told Ms Rowland that all the woman’s children were subsequently taken into care in September 2014 and the male victim in the case was placed in the same foster home as his sister.
The same month he disclosed the abuse to his foster family and this was later reported to gardaí.
Michael Lynn SC, defending the man, said he is the oldest of eight children and had a difficult upbringing himself, leaving home at the age of 16.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending the children’s mother, said she also suffered both physical and sexual abuse as a child and has low intellectual functioning.
Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting said the Director of Public Prosecutions viewed the case as an exceptional case, and in terms of the man, a sentence of 15 years to life was considered appropriate due to the extremely young age of the children, their vulnerabilities, the breach of trust involved, the disparity in ages the long-lasting impacts on the children.
She said their mother, due to her difficulties in relation to her intellectual functioning, had reduced culpability and a sentence range of 10 to 15 years was more appropriate.
Mr Justice David Keane remanded the two accused in continuing custody and adjourned sentencing to March 13th, 2023.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.