A father who admits beating and neglecting his children who had been sexually abused by their own mother should not be jailed, the Crown Court heard yesterday.
His lawyer told Mr Justice Horner that while the custody threshold was crossed, the public interest could be served by suspending any jail term.
The historic case centres on a catalogue of remarkable cruelty towards the children, which included forcing them to sleep in filth, confining one in a cot for two years, and making them watch as their mother had sex with a variety of men – including her brothers and an RUC reservist.
Speaking against any plea for lenience, the prosecuting QC Charles MacCreanor yesterday said there were a number of aggravating features in the case – the number of victims and the multiplicity of offences carried out over a considerable period of time.
He added that any sentence imposed should have an element of deterrence.
Last week the court had heard that, in mitigation for her crimes, the mother involved had a very low IQ.
That had followed details of the abuse and cruelty meted out to the boy and his three younger sisters in their rodent-infested Co Down home.
Judge Mr Justice Horner was told of how the youngsters lived in constant fear and suffered abuse from infancy until their later primary years.
Although finally taken into care, some still suffered beatings at the hand of their father.
In all, the six accused – including 53-year-old former RUC reservist Thomas Fitzpatrick, originally from Crewhill Gardens in Ardglass, and 59-year-old baker Patrick Kilmartin, originally from Bryansford Gardens in Newcastle – have pleaded guilty to a total of 49 charges between them, dating back as far as the summer of 1977.
The guilty family members are not named or pictured to spare the identities of their now-adult victims.
The victims’ 58-year-old mother faces the most charges of all – 23 – involving six of sexual indecency and 17 of cruelty and neglect. Her 60-year-old husband admitted the same cruelty charges, while ex-police reservist Fitzpatrick had pleaded guilty to indecent assault, gross indecency and common assault involving three of the children.
The crimes of the uncles ranged from indecent assault to gross indecency.
Kilmartin was responsible for a single count of indecent assault. Frank O’Donoghoe QC, speaking for Kilmartin, described his client’s involvement as an “isolated drunken incident, the immediate shock and disgust of which made him give up drink”.
Greg Berry QC said former RUC man Thomas Fitzpatrick had led “a blameless life” but for turning to drink through the stresses of his work as a policeman at the height of the Troubles.
Sentencing in the case is due to take place next month.