Jail warning for young mother

There was a sitting of Longford District Court last week.
There was a sitting of Longford District Court last week.

A 23-year-old mother of three was warned on Friday that she will go to jail if she does not fully complete 80 hours’ community service.

Sarah Kennedy of Ballybay Meadows, Portadown, appeared at Craigavon Magistrates Court on Friday charged with disorderly behaviour in Thomas Street on March 27.

She was already the subject of suspended sentences for different types of offences.

The court heard that around 1.40am in the morning, police were called to a fight between a number of males and females. The defendant was abusive to police and approached the door of a licensed premises and began kicking and swearing and shouting. District Judge Bernie Kelly said Kennedy had previous convictions for “actual bodily harm against more than one person on more than one occasion”. In considering sentencing, she noted that a Probation report indicated that Kennedy was willing to do community service, but was unable to find childcare.

Addressing the defence solicitor, she said, “Her mother can assist with minding her kids when she wants to go out on a drink-fuelled evening.”

She gave Kennedy the chance to “reconsider”, issuing the ultimatum of either finding childcare that same morning to enable her to do community service or going to prison.

The defendant and her solicitor left the courtroom and when they returned the judge was informed that Kennedy had managed to arrange childcare.

Calling the defendant to step forward, Judge Kelly told her, “This is no way to behave. You are the mother of three young children. You have massive responsibilities. I am actually amazed that you can go out to the early hours of the morning, not to mention afford it when you are not gainfully employed.

“Do you want your children growing up with the same criminal record as you?”

Sentencing her to 80 hours’ community service, she said, “You can explain to your children that mammy has been punished for behaving badly. Surely if you have young children, you should be at home looking after them at that time of the morning. If you do not co-operate fully with Probation, you will receive an immediate custodial sentence, irrespective of whether you are the mother of three children or not. This is your last chance.”