The jury in the trial of five people accused of abusing three children has begun hearing closing arguments.
The five on trial include the children's parents, uncles and an aunt. They face a number of charges involving the sexual abuse and exploitation of the children. The parents also face charges of neglecting five of their children. All five defendants deny the charges.
Charges against the children's grandmother and another aunt were withdrawn earlier in the trial.
There are wide-ranging reporting restrictions in place by order of the court to protect the children’s identities and for their welfare.
Prosecuting Counsel Bernard Condon told the jury this was "an extraordinary case involving multiple allegations by multiple children of multiple wrongdoing over multiple years".
The central aspect of the case was the manner in which it was communicated. He said a trial was a process of communication and bearing in mind these were children, the process of communication was not perfect.
He said there was no perfect way to be a child victim, no rule about how you communicate the wrong done to you. While the defence might argue about children not making certain allegations in their first garda interviews, he asked if they were expected to unburden themselves the first time they meet a guard.
"These were deeply traumatised children having to make deeply unpleasant communications to strangers not knowing how it will be received," he said adding that the jury had heard evidence from a specialist garda about how children tend to drip feed information.
He said "the moral centre of the children had been shattered" by what was done adding, "there were no boundaries for these children". Their communication was part of a unique process because every child is different and their response to what was done to them is unique.
"A period of two years for a six-year-old child is a third of their life," he said adding that there was a multiplicity of people involved in the allegations made by the children who had named other people apart from those on trial.
"Here you have these children remembering this traumatic environment and making allegations against the most important people in their lives.
"You might nit pick about discrepancies in a small portion of their evidence but I would say to you remember the difficulty, the sheer number of wrongs done to these children by the sheer number of people over the years in many different locations, these are the criteria that the children are to be judged by not the text book child or the text book adult, but these children describing what was done to them."
An intrinsic part of the case was the neglect of the children which he said "breeds vulnerability". A lack of care, safety and boundaries made children much more vulnerable and therefore available, he said. Advantage was taken of them by their parents and uncles, he added.
He reminded the jury of the interviews with the children when the girl became upset and could not continue. He said she was in tears at the end of her interview and when interviewed a second time made further allegations.
He said she could not have been expected to list off everything that happened to her the first time: "If everything was put into a perfect box with a perfect bow on, it is not human experience and no one will recount something in the very same way. This is a human exercise, it is not a robot these are real people telling you real things."
He reminded the jury how the girl’s younger brother, in his recorded interview, had played with his 'Woody' doll and broke into song at one point. "There is no perfect way of doing this," he said.
Their older brother, who is now 14 years old, had to give his evidence 'live' by video link, a young teenage boy who had to describe what was done to him by his relatives as a boy of eight or nine years old. He said there was an "absurd" suggestion by the defence that he had been the one who introduced sex to the household.
He said when you look at the case globally "you see how it all fits together". Mr Condon said some of the strongest pieces of evidence they had were the admissions made by the children’s mother.
"That is some of the strongest evidence you have - an acknowledgement by the person that they did it," he said. He reminded the jury that the mother said the children were abused once or twice a week so how could her eldest son give "chapter and verse of every single thing that happened to him".
He took the jury through the allegations made by each of the children against each of the defendants. He referred to allegations of abuse made by the younger of the two boys during which he described his uncle's shed in great detail and described being frightened by the darkness and the spiders.
Mr Condon added: "Is that an invention? No it is the story of a small frightened boy who has been put into that shed."
He said the boy had described in banal terms what he had done after one episode of alleged abuse by his uncle. The boy had described going out to play on a bike and then watching the movie Toy Story. He said his sister had gone outside to play with her cousin.
"This is the account of an eight-year-old boy describing something that happened when he was five," Mr Condon said, adding that the children were able to act in this banal way after being abused as it was consistent with their boundaries having been "exploded" from an early stage.
Referring to criticism of the children having written down or made notes of their allegations, Mr Condon said the welfare of the children at all times dictated the process. He said it could be seen from the emotional testimony of one foster parent that they were trying to "take these broken children and give then an opportunity to move on and you don’t want them being constantly brought back to a DVD (interview) room. The process must allow the child to have a childhood, surely they are entitled to a childhood and that means not constantly brining them back to get information."
He said it was "not a laboratory or a text book, but was real human beings with individual experiences recounting those in a way they best can".
Mr Condon said there was evidence to support the children’s allegations from foster parents who reported evidence of sexualisation which he said "established the core essence of this case that these children were sexually abused by adults".
Another supportive piece of evidence was the number and similarity of the allegations made. He said there was not one whit of evidence to support a suggestion that the children had colluded or been influenced by a third party.
Referring to the charges of neglect against the parents, Mr Condon told the jury it was neglect by choice, not through incapacity. He said it was suggested that the mother's mild intellectual disability was an excuse for this but he said there was no excuse for not washing children, and others with intellectual disabilities did not have their children taken into care. He said the parents were given every support from social services and it was "not about not being able to cope, it was about not wanting to cope".
He told the jury that the mother of the children had made admissions about the abuse during her garda interviews, and while much had been made of the manner of the questioning, she had a solicitor present throughout the process and had 11 consultations. However, she was now resiling from those admissions.
He said the jury must be careful that they did not add two and two and get 200 in considering the fact that the children had changed their evidence, resulting in charges being withdrawn against two defendants. He said this had marked the children as honest.
"If they were devious children out to destroy people and trying to advance an agenda, would they be the sort now to concede that maybe they had made a mistake against (an aunt)?"
He said they had fairly and honestly conceded that as they stand now in terms of their memory, but had made no such concessions in relation to the five remaining accused. To suggest that none of their testimony could now be believed would not be a sophisticated analysis of the evidence, he said, adding: "Would it be fair to do that to the children when they answered so carefully?"
He said the three children gave compelling, clear and harrowing accounts of events in their lives. It was very strong evidence which at its heart had great strengths, he said, asking the jury to "resolve this case in favour of convicting all of the people based on the evidence and nothing else".
The trial continues tomorrow.
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