A woman has been jailed for two years after a court in Cork heard she treated her step child like a modern-day Cinderella, taunting her with the name "Cora Ella" whilst subjecting her to beatings with pokers and force-feeding her vinegar, mustard, salt and chilli powder.
Part-time cleaner Bridget Kenneally, 49, of Duncoran, Youghal, Co Cork, pleaded guilty to one count of assault of Cora Desmond at Kenny's Lane, Youghal, on a date between 1 October and 31 October, 2009.
She was sentenced on a background of abusing Ms Desmond for more than ten years.
Ms Desmond, now 21, gave a victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
She detailed the abuse that occurred at the hands of Kenneally from when she was aged six to 16.
She told Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin that when she was five her father, who had full custody of her, began a relationship with Kenneally.
Initially, Kenneally seemed "nice and caring", but this honeymoon period did not last long.
She said: "About six months into the 11-year relationship the horrific abuse began with a few slaps and punches, but then gradually got worse. Throughout the years it became clear to me that I was nothing but a punching bag to Bridget.
"Her children could go hang out with friends of their choosing. My sister and myself were refused daily of the same freedom. Instead, we were confined to her residence to clean up after her and her children.
"Bridget gave me the name 'Cora Ella' and told me I was just like Cinderella because I was the one who was not wanted or loved."
Ms Desmond said she lived a double life for 11 years, feeling trapped at home waiting for the next beating or punishment. In school, she said, she was "happy, free and bubbly".
However, she said she eventually lost her confidence.
The supermarket worker, who said she is extremely grateful to gardaí for the sensitivity shown to her in the lead up to the case, said that her childhood involved mental and physical torture.
She said: "One of the recurring daily punishments - she would feed me excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar.
"Since my departure from her care I have long lasting negative reactions to certain smells and tastes. It brings back memories and flashbacks of the torture she put me through.
"There were constant verbal threats that she would kill me if I ever told anyone of the abuse I endured."
Ms Desmond said that because of the "heinous crime of cruelty" inflicted on her, she suffers from depression and is afraid to go anywhere on her own.
"You (Bridget) robbed me of my carefree childhood that every child is entitled to. I now understand that none of it was my fault and I didn't deserve any of it, though that is what she made me believe," she said.
Sgt Mark Ward said that during the abuse Ms Desmond was regularly beaten with pokers, sticks of the vacuum cleaner, belts and spatulas. She was hospitalised for a week in 2008 arising out of her injuries.
He said that Kenneally called Cora a variation of Cinderella and treated her and her sister differently from her biological children.
Concerns were raised over the years by, among others, a principal of a national school she attended. On one occasion, a GP found 50 bruises on her body.
Kenneally was interviewed informally in 2016 and was arrested in 2017 after a complaint had been made against her. She made no admissions to gardaí, but eventually entered a guilty plea in the case.
Sgt Ward said that the guilty plea was of assistance to the court given that a trial would have involved 14 witnesses.
Barrister Patrick O'Riordan, who represented Kenneally, said his client had entered a guilty plea and had paid €5,000 in compensation. He said she was a woman without previous convictions.
He told the court that Kenneally had six children in her care at the time of the offences and was experiencing difficulty coping.
He said his client had "a protracted psychiatric history" and wanted to apologise to the victim in the case.
Judge Ó Donnabháin asked the victim if she felt the apology was genuine. She said she did not believe that Kenneally was remorseful for her actions.
Having read the psychologist's reports, Judge Ó Donnabháin said Kenneally seemed to blame everyone but herself for her actions.
He said, having taken the entirety of the abuse into consideration, a custodial sentence was warranted.
"This was a case of continued brutality. This was systemic abuse and cruelty. She (Cora) was deprived of a childhood because of the pain and misery she was subjected to," he said.
Judge Ó Donnabháin jailed Kenneally for two years, saying that he was horrified by the tale of hospitalisation and force feeding of Ms Desmond.
Following the sentencing, Ms Desmond urged other victims of child abuse to come forward.
She said: "I thought I was wasting my time and she would get away with what she done to me, but thankfully I got some sort of justice. It is something.
"I would say to people to speak up. Don't be afraid to tell someone. Tell someone and get out of the situation sooner rather than later. I was six when it started and 16 when it finished.
"I was skinny and small and the easiest target. It is over. I am out of it and living my life."