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Court finds woman who faced 61 charges of neglect and abuse of her two children unfit to be tried

A DUBLIN MOTHER who faced 61 charges relating to the neglect and abuse of her two youngest children has been found unfit to be tried.

The 50-year-old woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her children, was to stand trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in relation to one charge of causing or encouraging a sexual offence upon a child, three counts of reckless endangerment and 57 counts of neglecting the children, on dates from 2002 to 2010.

A 78-year-old man is still before the courts on similar charges.

The children, a boy and a girl, were aged seven and ten when they were taken into care in December 2010. The woman has had no contact with the children since.

Orla Crowe SC, defending, told Judge Cormac Quinn that the HSE had previously been involved with her client and her children, which included assisting the woman in helping to ensure that the children were fed a breakfast and sent to school.

Doctor John Hillery, consultant psychiatrist, who assessed the woman on behalf of the defence, told counsel for the woman that she attended his clinic along with her advocate.

He said the woman appeared to have difficulties with attention and comprehension, and didn’t seem to understand the seriousness of the charge.

He said she was unable to give details about the charges against her, or timelines in relation to her court appearances.

‘Totally preoccupied’

The woman spoke of the possibility of “getting locked up” if she were to be convicted, but the psychiatrist said she “showed no concern” of the prospect of this.

He said the woman was also “totally preoccupied” by the fact that her boyfriend was calling her during their meeting and seemed more concerned about wanting to answer the phone.

The psychiatrist said he also spoke to the woman’s advocate, who expressed concerns about the accused’s comprehension and communication skills despite the fact that she had been assessed as being capable of living independently.

He concluded that although the woman had previously been assessed as having a mild intellectual disability, he found that her actual level of functioning was lower than that.

He said she didn’t understand the seriousness of the charges against her, or the actions of the court, and he believed she would not be able to properly instruct a solicitor.

The psychiatrist also noted that the woman needed life-long support from learning disability services to prevent her from being taken advantage of in the future.

Fitness to stand trial considered

Doctor Brenda Wright, a forensic psychiatrist who assessed the woman on behalf of the State, told Anne-Marie Lawlor SC, prosecuting, that she considered the woman’s fitness to plea for trial.

She said that having met with the woman, she was “not satisfied that she met the criteria” and concluded that she could not properly instruct a legal team or challenge evidence in a trial.

She concluded that “an unfitness” to plea arises from the woman’s intellectual disability.

She said she was in agreement with the defence’s psychiatrist that the woman’s needs “lie very much in the area of life-long support”.

The judge said, having considered the reports from each of the doctors and their testimonies before the court, that he accepted that the woman was unfit to be tried.

He adjourned the case for 12 months to 15 July, 2020 to monitor her case and see what assistance she is getting in the community for her disability.