A man who abducted his young daughter, prompting a nationwide Child Safety Alert, has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
The 33-year-old man previously pleaded guilty to intentionally taking his two-year-old daughter from a health centre in Co Mayo on October 12th 2021. He cannot be named in order to protect his daughter’s identity.
The man later pleaded guilty at a Circuit Criminal Court sitting in Mayo to assaulting causing harm to his two nieces and charges of assaulting a garda on December 1st, 2021.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that in December 2021, the man forced his way into his sister’s Mayo home in an attempt to take his child whom she had been caring for at the time. The man assaulted two of his nieces, then aged 19 and 23 years old, during that burglary.
Passing sentence on Wednesday, Judge Martin Nolan said the man had behaved “disgracefully”.
The judge accepted that the man had expressed remorse and that drink was causing him problems, but said the second set of offences had aggravated the entire situation.
“The abduction was bad enough, but when you appeared at your sister’s house, this court lost all sympathy for you,” said Judge Nolan.
Garda Derek Sweeney told Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting, that some years previously the man had gone to the UK where he met a woman and they had a daughter. The family visited Mayo from the UK in mid-2021 to attend a family birthday party.
The court heard that the couple had “some problem with alcohol”. Mr Cooney said that both parents had been “heavily involved in substance abuse” at the time and were “completely out of it” at this party.
About a week later the toddler was brought to a local doctor, the court heard. The doctor contacted Túsla raising concerns about the girl’s welfare, and, following a formal complaint, an interim care order was made placing her in the care of a relative.
Both parents were given access to visit their daughter from time to time at a designated venue. It was on such scheduled visit at the health centre in Mayo last October that the father arrived alone to see his daughter, bringing food and drinks for her.
When the support worker asked where the mother was, the man replied that she was sick. The court heard that when the little girl arrived with her guardian, the man picked up his daughter, said “I’m really sorry,” to the relative and carried the child to a waiting car.
The child’s mother was driving the car and she took off at dangerous speed, counsel said. A nationwide Child Rescue Alert was activated and broadcast widely on the media, leading gardaí to trace man’s location via his phone to Camden Street in Dublin 8.
Child Rescue Alert
A receptionist working at Keaven’s Port Hotel on Camden Street came across the Child Rescue Alert on her phone and identified the child with two adults who had checked in. Garda Sweeney agreed with Dean Kelly SC, defending, that hotel staff said the child did not appear at all distressed.
Gardaí arrived at the hotel, removed the child and arrested her parents, who were interviewed several times and made full admissions. The court heard the man was polite and told gardaí, “I just wanted to spend time with my daughter.”
The court heard that the mother, who is a UK national, pleaded guilty to abduction but failed to turn up for her sentence and is now living in London. Mr Cooney said that some weeks after the abduction, the man attempted to abduct the child again from a house in Mayo.
Garda Sinead Chaney told Patrick Reynolds BL, prosecuting, that the man’s sister was caring for his child on December 1st, 2021, when there was a bang at the front door. When one of occupants opened the door there was nobody there, but the family then heard knocking on the back windows.
The family barricaded themselves into various bedrooms before the man kicked the back door in and made his way into the house. He was roaring and shouting, threatening to burn down the house and saying that he only wanted to see his daughter.
His nieces met him on the landing and he assaulted both of them, headbutting one and trying to choke her, while he struck the second girl in the face. The family managed to push him out of the house and called gardaí.
They could later hear him “smashing up” his sister’s car, Gda Chaney said. Gardaí later gave chase and had to use their batons and pepper spray on the man to successfully arrest him.
En route to the garda station, the man appeared to have a fit. Gardaí stopped the vehicle and when they opened the door, the man spat blood at one of the gardaí.
The man later made no comment during his interview with gardaí. There were no medical reports in court in relation to the injuries sustained by the man’s nieces, nor where there any victim impact reports in court.
Brian Storan BL, defending, said the accused man deeply regrets his behaviour and knows there was no justification for it.
Mr Storan said his client’s “skewed and irrational” behaviour was actually a love for his young daughter, which was warped by drugs and alcohol.
He said his client is remorseful and knows that losing custody of his daughter was a direct consequence of his chaotic lifestyle.
Judge Nolan told the accused that it was up to him to “mend fences” with his daughter, his sister and his nieces.