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02/08/2021

Neighbour of family at centre of abuse trial gives evidence

Neighbour of family at centre of abuse trial gives evidence

The trial is taking place at a temporary courtroom at Croke Park

***READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED***

A NEIGHBOUR has told a child abuse trial that she heard “screaming, roaring and crying” from the children at all hours - day and night.

The woman was giving evidence in the trial of six family members accused of abusing three children on dates between 2014 and 2016.

The accused are the parents, aunts and uncles of the children. The parents are also accused of neglecting five of their children. All of the accused have denied the charges against them.

Today, a woman who was living next door to the parents at the time of the alleged offences gave evidence in the Central Criminal Court trial.

“The noise that went on in that house was extreme,” the woman told Eilis Brennan SC, prosecuting. “Night time, day time, every hour of the day.”

There was “screaming, roaring, crying,” the neighbour said. “Those kids cried more than they talked in that house.”

The woman said she heard the children falling down the stairs “several times”

The six accused, who cannot be named for legal reasons, range in age from 27 to 56 and live at various locations in Munster.

The charges against a fourth woman – the children's 57-year-old grandmother – were withdrawn earlier this week by direction of the trial judge.

There are reporting restrictions in place in the case to protect the welfare and identities of the child complainants.

Evidence in the trial finished early this Friday due to repeated difficulties with the sound system in the temporary courtroom at Croke Park.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott told the jury the trial could not continue to hear evidence when there were problems with the microphones and sound. He said the court would seek to rectify the situation by Monday.

In her evidence to the court, the neighbour said that she started keeping diaries to monitor the situation in the house after contacting the local authorities. The court heard she also called gardaí a number of times.

In her diaries, the woman outlined various incidents, including one occasion when she said she saw one of the boys dangling from an upstairs window, caught by the waist of his pants.

On another occasion she said the same boy stood on the eaves of a garden shed and urinated into her garden.

She described one night where there was banging on the walls for “two, four, six hours”.

The neighbour said the children played outside on the street at various times of day, including early in the morning, without any adult supervision.

She described one Christmas morning when she said some of the children were out playing in the street in their pyjamas with no shoes on, while another child spent the day crying because she did not get a toy she wanted. The children “lived in” their pyjamas a lot of the time, the neighbour said.

The woman said she saw the father lining up four of the children in the garden and giving them medicine from a syringe. The court heard she witnessed this “on a number of occasions” and it was usually in the early evening. She said he would “whistle” and the children would come and line up to receive the medication.

The children were often quiet between 6pm and 11pm before they would start making noise again between 11pm and 2 to 4am, the neighbour said. She said she only ever saw the father administer the medicine.

The woman said that she came to know when social workers were coming to the house because “rubbish” goods such as Coke, crisps and sweets would be taken out of the house. She said it would be brought back in once the social worker had left.

The court heard the woman occasionally phoned one of the accused men – the 48-year-old uncle – when the noise was too loud and he would come over.

“If the kids were on the road playing, he seemed to have more control over them,” she said.

On one occasion, she said she thought she heard a cat crying one night, but it was in fact one of the children. The child was crying for “quite a bit” and the other children were “roaring”, she said.

The neighbour said she phoned the uncle, who came over to the house. There was “dead silence” after that, she said.

Under cross-examination by Mark Nicholas SC, defending the father, the woman agreed that she had never entered the house.

In relation to her assertion that the children fell down the stairs, he suggested it could have been toys or another object. The woman said that on one occasion, she called the uncle after hearing a child falling down the stairs and the uncle confirmed this had happened.

The neighbour agreed that the medication was given to the children “openly”.

The trial has previously heard that social workers called to the parents' house unannounced. When this was put to the neighbour, she maintained that “the house would be cleaned” and sweets removed before social workers arrived.

Mr Nicholas put it to the woman that her description of the child dangling out of a window was an “exaggeration”. “A child couldn't dangle out of a window without falling,” he said. The woman said she did not know what the child was attached to at the time.

The neighbour agreed with Dean Kelly SC, defending the mother, that she did not believe the couple were good or capable parents. She agreed that the children “didn't appear to have any fear or respect” for their parents.

The trial continues on Monday.

The 56-year-old father of the three main child complainants has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts including rape, anal rape, oral rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and wilfully neglecting a child at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.

The 34-year-old mother of the three main child complainants has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to 25 counts including sexual assault, sexual exploitation and wilfully neglecting a child at locations in Munster during the same time period.

The mother and father have also pleaded not guilty to wilfully neglecting a further two children while two further men and two women, including aunts and uncles of the children, are also on trial.

They have all pleaded not guilty to a variety of charges.

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