The parents of a girl who suffered brain damage after being knocked unconscious in their family home in Dublin have been found guilty of neglect and cruelty.
A 39-year-old man and his 36-year-old wife both pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault causing serious harm and three counts of child cruelty between 28 June and 2 July 2019.
Her father believed she was possessed by an evil spirit and told gardaí he performed a ritual on her at one stage to try and get it to leave her body.
The couple, who can’t be named to protect their daughter’s identity, moved to Ireland from north Africa a number of years ago.
On 2 July 2019, the child was taken to hospital with multiple bruises, cuts, bite marks and burns across her body. She also had bleeding on the brain and is now dependent on daily care.
The father arrived home from work shortly after 3pm, but only called an ambulance at 10pm.
He and his wife later lied to doctors and also claimed the girl’s head injuries came from a fall from her bike days earlier and a fall in the shower that day.
Medical experts said the injuries were the result of a combination of blunt force trauma and violent shaking of the head while her facial bruising was indicative of blows from punching.
Her head injuries which caused a loss of consciousness led to permanent neurological damage.
The jury also heard evidence that at one stage the father told a detective that he had carried out a ritual to get a “devil” – ‘a djinn or spirit’ – to leave the child’s body after contacting a friend who was a ‘Ruqyah’ – an Islamic faith healer.
After a 12-day trial, the jury of six men and five women found both parents guilty on all counts.
Inspector Brian Downey said the girl suffered “horrendous physical abuse” and can no longer see, hear, touch or swallow. He said the child was just three months in Ireland when she was attacked.
He said it was the first case in Ireland of faith based abuse and the child had suffered “an exorcism“.
Inspector Downey said it was a test of nerve for gardaí having had to deal with such harrowing information.
“We are all human, some of us have children and we know how important it is and how a nine-year-old relies on their parents. It was a horrendous case to investigate,” he said.
“This is the first case I know with [this] level of injuries,” he said. “No sort of abuse that is faith based will be tolerated. Children have a right to grow up free of violence, physical or emotional.”
Inspector Downey also added that gardaí will investigate any other similar typre of case and that perpetrators will be brought to justice.
Gardaí believe this case is the exception rather than the rule. The other children in the family are now in care, having been placed in other homes by Tusla.