A couple who abducted their young daughter, prompting a nationwide Child Safety Alert, were “heavily involved in substance abuse” at the time, a court has heard.
The 33-year-old father previously pleaded guilty to intentionally taking his two-year-old daughter from a health centre in County Mayo on October 12 last year.
He cannot be named in order to protect his daughter’s identity.
At a hearing today, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the man is facing trial in Mayo next year on separate charges including assault, burglary and criminal damage. Judge Martin Nolan adjourned passing sentence on the abduction until next March, pending the outcome of the Mayo trial.
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 Swinford Health Centre 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.
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.
Garda 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 Knock, Co Mayo.
He faces a number of charges in relation to that offence including assault, criminal damage and burglary, with trial due to begin next year in Castlebar Circuit Court.
Garda Sweeney agreed with Mr Cooney that both parents had been “heavily involved in substance abuse” at the time of the abduction.
Mr Cooney said a family member described the couple as being “completely out of it” at the family birthday party. Judge Nolan adjourned the sentence until March 8 next.