Dad who abandoned autistic son in city centre spared jail

by Gazette Reporter

By Brion Hoban

A father-of-two who abandoned his seven-year-old autistic son in the city centre has received a fully suspended sentence.

The 40-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the child’s identity, told gardaí he was in “a bad state” on the night and thought his partner had taken his son home.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that both this child and his younger brother have since been taken into care and have been separated.

The man pleaded guilty to wilful neglect of a child at Customs House Harbour, Dublin city on June 2, 2017. He has 13 previous convictions, including theft and drugs.

The court heard that on the night in question, a chef in a city centre pub noticed the accused man rummaging around in a recycling bin.

A short time later, the chef noticed a child strapped in a buggy dragging himself along with his feet. The child was about 15 feet from the water of the harbour and was not wearing a coat.

The child was taken away in an ambulance and gardaí called to investigate were soon notified that a child with a matching description had been reported missing in north Dublin.

The accused man and his partner had attended a party in Dublin city centre that evening alongside their two children, both of whom have been diagnosed with autism. The woman left the party early with the younger child, while the man remained at the party with the older boy.

The man told gardai he had left the party with his son and went into the pub to use the toilet, leaving the child outside. When he left the pub he did not see the child and formed the idea that his partner had taken both children home.

The man admitted that he was in “a bad state” on the night have taken tablets and alcohol. He did not remember rummaging in the recycling bin.

The court heard that the younger boy is in foster care while the older boy is in residential care and has learned how to speak a few words.

Judge Melanie Greally said this was “a very sad situation”. She said these were not “rational or intentional acts” on the part of the man and that it was not his intention to abandon his child at this location.

Judge Greally said it does not appear he lacked devotion to his children, “but he was ill-equipped to perform the role of parent at that time”. She sentenced the man to two years imprisonment, but suspended the entirety of the sentence on strict conditions.

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