Parents found guilty of assault, neglect of nine-year-old daughter
A couple have been found guilty of assaulting, neglecting and of being cruel to their nine-year-old daughter who has been left with life-changing brain injuries.
The 39-year-old man and his 36-year-old wife had pleaded not guilty to two charges of assault causing serious harm and three charges of child cruelty at the family home between 28 June and 2 July 2019.
A garda investigation commenced into the case after the child victim was found unconscious at the family home on 2 July 2019.
She was taken to hospital with multiple bruises, cuts, bite marks and burns across her body.
The girl also had bleeding on the brain and is now dependent on carers for her basic daily needs.
Her parents, who are originally from north Africa and cannot be identified to protect the identity of the victim, pleaded not guilty to a total of ten charges of assault, neglect and cruelty.
In their statements, the girl’s two siblings told gardaí that their sister had fallen in the shower that morning.
However, in his evidence to the court, the girl’s younger brother said that this was a lie and that his mother had told him to say that before the ambulance came.
The victim’s sister also testified that she saw her sister unconscious and naked at around 11.30am and that her mother said she thought her sister was dead.
Her mother called the father at work at around 1.30pm that day and on this video call she said: “I told you I was going to kill her, why didn’t you stop me?”
The father arrived home from work shortly after 3pm, but only called an ambulance at 10pm.
He and his wife later lied to doctors and also claimed the girl’s head injuries came from a fall from her bike days earlier and a fall in the shower that day.
Medical experts said the injuries were consistent with non-accidental injury.
The trial heard medical evidence that the brain injuries were a result of a combination of blunt force trauma and violent shaking of the head.
One medical expert said that bruising around the face were indicative of blows to the face such as caused by punching.
The injuries to the head were the cause of the child losing consciousness and ultimately suffering permanent neurological damage.
The jury also heard evidence that at one stage the father told a detective that he had carried out a ritual to get a “devil” – ‘a djinn or spirit’ – to leave the child’s body after contacting a friend who was a ‘Ruqyah’ – an Islamic faith healer.
Girl suffered ‘horrendous abuse’ – gardaí
After a 12-day trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, a jury of six men and five women found each parent guilty on all counts.
Judge Martin Nolan remanded the couple in continuing custody for sentencing on 24 January 2022.
The officer who led the investigation said the girl suffered “horrendous physical abuse” and can no longer see, hear, touch or swallow.
He said she requires 24-hour care and will not recover.
Inspector Brian Downey said the child was just three months in Ireland when she was attacked and said her parents were “the perpetrators”.
He said it was the first case in Ireland of faith based abuse and the child had suffered “an exorcism”.
Inspector Downey also said it was a very difficult investigation for gardaí.
“We are all human, some of us have children and we know how important it is and how a nine-year-old relies on their parents. It was a horrendous case to investigate,” he said.
“This is the first case I know with [this] level of injuries,” he said. “No sort of abuse that is faith based will be tolerated. Children have a right to grow up free of violence, physical or emotional.”
Inspector Downey also said gardaí will not tolerate this type of exorcism. He said they will investigate and the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
Gardaí believe this case is the exception rather than the rule.
The other children in the family are now in care and Inspector Downey said they were doing very well after having been placed in other homes by Tusla.
“There are no winners,” he said. “There is a family broken with parents spending the night in prison.”