A 27-year-old mother-of-two who turned a blind eye to her baby daughter being sexually abused by her then boyfriend was freed yesterday on a three-year probation order.
Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that, while a custodial sentence would ordinarily be required for the horrific injuries, violence and cruelty suffered by the child, it was always recognised there would be exceptional cases.
The Belfast Crown Court judge said all reports on the woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her children, agreed that she would benefit best from statutory supervision.
Judge Kerr said the reports all referred to the woman’s low IQ, mental state and episodes of self-harming. They also revealed that she herself was abused as a youngster, leaving her vulnerable, with feelings of inferiority and a lack of any parenting skills.
Judge Kerr said he had also taken into account the fact that both children had been taken into care and would no longer be at risk from the negligence or neglect of their mother, who will never again have a caring role in their lives.
An earlier hearing was told that the north Belfast woman, who pleaded guilty to wilfully neglecting her eldest child which was likely to cause her unnecessary suffering or injury to health, had found evidence of abuse of the youngster, aged between 15 and 18 months old at the time.
Prosecutor Gary McCrudden said that police suspected the child was the victim of a sexual assault, as there was evidence of a healing wound.
When initially questioned, she denied saying she had found evidence of abuse, but later gave a candid account of what may have happened when she went for a lie down, leaving the youngster in the care of her boyfriend.
Mr McCrudden said the woman also admitted to police she had not sought medical attention for her daughter, because she could not give an explanation as to the causes of the injury.
The Crown lawyer also revealed that, despite suspicions of child abuse by the boyfriend, no prosecution has arisen from that part of the case.
Defence QC Gavin Duffy said it would be an under statement to say this was a very sad and tragic case in which she herself had a history of serious neglect and abuse.
He added that, despite the heartache involved, she co-operated fully with her children being taken into care and will now only see them once a year during supervised visits.