Cork mother's sentencing for son's manslaughter adjourned

Monday 07 April 2014 22.56
Diane Ward has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her eight-year-old son Anthony
Diane Ward has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her eight-year-old son Anthony

A Co Cork woman who killed her eight-year-old son while depressed and suicidal has had her sentencing adjourned for three months.

A judge at the Central Criminal Court said it would be highly inappropriate to release the woman into the community without a proper plan for psychiatric treatment and support.

Diane Ward of Harrison Place, Charleville, Co Cork, had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her eight-year-old son Anthony at their home on 3 September 2012.

At her sentence hearing today, the court heard the 44-year-old had a long history of a depressive disorder and had been hospitalised in the past when she tried to take her own life.

She had responded well to treatment but had relapsed a number of times.

She was described by the boy's father as "a good person who made a mistake".

The court heard she tried to take her own life in the early hours of the morning and decided to smother her son as she feared there would be no one to look after him.

She had previously asked a family member to take her son to relieve the pressure on her but it was not possible for them to do so.

She had left a note requesting they be buried together.

A psychiatrist told the court her son was "the centre of her world, she had invested everything in him and for him".

The court heard she had a difficult relationship with her family as they disagreed about the medical treatment of her son, who had ADHD and was on a prescribed medication.

Her mother had been appointed a guardian of her son.

A statement from the boy's father, Mark Ryan, said he was getting on with his life though his loss had been traumatic.

He said: "I'm living with a memory of Anthony and all the good times, I miss him dearly, I will never forget him.

"Myself and Diane were friends for ten years and never had any big trauma in our relationship.

"She was a good person that made a mistake. I have no grievance with her and I wish her well in her future ahead."

A psychiatric report prepared for the prosecution said while she did not meet the criteria for insanity required under legislation, her mental capacity to reason the situation and choices open to her were substantially diminished and it followed that any intention formed in deciding to kill herself and her son were the products of a diminished mental capacity.

A psychiatrist from the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, where she has been since the incident, said she was still at risk of suicide and still had very serious issues to address.

Dr Helen O'Neill said she had still not been able to begin the grieving process for her son.

She said she would require intensive grief therapy work in the Central Mental Hospital along with other intensive therapies before she could be released into the community.

Dr O'Neill said Ward had not yet visited her son's grave.

Mr Justice Barry White said he was clearly minded to impose a non-custodial sentence or suspended sentence but it would not be in her interest to let her leave custody immediately and return to the community.

He said it would be highly inappropriate for her to be released into the community without support.

He adjourned the case until 7 July to allow further inquiries to be made about the possibilities for her treatment.

Ward was remanded in custody and will remain in hospital.