Couple ordered to stand trial over multiple allegations of child cruelty

The couple appeared at Criagavon Magistrates Court. Credit: UTV

A couple have been ordered to stand trial accused of multiple allegations of child cruelty.

Standing side by side at Craigavon Magistrates Court the man and woman, who cannot be identified to protect their children, confirmed they understood the charges against them.

The man and woman, aged 34 and 24 respectively, are jointly charged with five counts of child cruelty in that they allegedly 'wilfully neglected' three boys and two girls "in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health," on 18 March this year.

In addition, the woman was also charged with driving while disqualified on the same date.

None of the facts were opened during Friday's hearing but previous courts heard how the investigation began when police received a report of a road traffic collision on the Brownlow Road, Craigavon just after midnight.

At the scene, officers found an abandoned VW Sharan people carrier crashes into the hedge and witnesses recounted how they had saw a man and woman flee the scene with a baby.

A short time later other officers were called to an ongoing domestic incident where one of the children commented that "mummy had crashed the car so they had to walk home.”

While there were five children at the property, the woman couldn’t give details about who all was present 'due to her intoxication'.Police say they also observed muddy items of clothing and clothes also in the washing machine, adding that when the kids were taken to hospital to be examined, doctors had 'concern' about their health.Both defendants were arrested for driving offences and during interview the male stated that the female had been the driver at the time of the collision.

The female admitted to driving but denied being intoxicated at the time or that any of the children were present. She claimed they had been with their aunt, that she only started drinking when she got home and blaming the ill health of the children on a change in nappy brand.

She had initially been charged with careless driving, drunk driving and driving without insurance but a prosecuting lawyer confirmed those holding charges were to be withdrawn.

The lawyer also submitted there was a Prima Facie case against the couple which was accepted by defence barristers Damien Halleron and Aaron Thompson.

The court clerk told the defendants that although not obliged to, they had the right to comment on the charges and to call evidence to the preliminary enquiry on their own behalves but they declined the opportunity.

Freeing them on continuing bail and returning the case to Craigavon Crown Court, District Judge Bernie Kelly scheduled their arraignment for 25 January.