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Freed by court... the drug addict mother whose bloodied, barely clothed tot was rescued by cops

By Deborah McAleese

A drug addict mother - whose blood-soaked and barely clothed infant daughter had to be rescued by police - has walked free from court after pleading guilty to child cruelty.

The tot, who was discovered with a cut on her arm and bruises on her face and stomach, had been living with her mother in a filthy house with a Rotweiller-type dog when a neighbour raised concern about the child's safety.

Her mother, Karen Wallace (29), from Hillfoot Crescent in Ballynahinch, told police she could not remember her daughter's date of birth because she had so many children.

Details of the shocking child abuse case, which were revealed during a hearing at Downpatrick Crown Court, has raised concern over the monitoring of at-risk children.

"This is a terribly shocking case and questions need to be asked as to how it was allowed to get to this stage. It was very lucky that the police rescued this little girl," said South Down MLA John McCallister.

The baby girl, who is now in care, was rescued after police spotted a drunken Wallace outside with the baby on a freezing January night "dangling" her by the wrists. Initially police thought she was carrying a doll. A police woman took the shivering child from Wallace and wrapped her in a warm blanket and nursed her in the police car.

The officer told the court that the baby made eye contact with her and touched her face.

She said the child was heavily soiled with vomit and blood, so she removed her outfit and discovered an arm wound, as well as bruising and marks to her face and stomach.

Officers accompanied Wallace into the house, which they found to be "chaotic", with beer bottles and a knife lying on the ground and a Rotweiller-type dog running around. Wallace, who has a number of children in care, said she had taken about 20 diazepam tablets and drank five to six bottles of beer over a period of two to three days and could not explain the baby's injuries.

Her defence lawyer told the court that Wallace had suffered a traumatic childhood and had become a drug addict following a bereavement.

Judge Piers Grant QC told Wallace that the court "must protect your child from your failures".

He added: "There is no bed made, no bedroom tidied, soiled clothing lying over the floors. I am not impressed by the level of care.

"There is wallpaper peeling off the walls. This is a chaotic house.

"This is a child who has to live in squalor. There are stains all over the armchair and food ingrained on the floor. Every room is in a state of chaos.

"You were not in the position to properly look after and safeguard this child."

He released Wallace on two years' probation. Mr McCallister said he was "very surprised that this woman did not receive a custodial sentence, as the level of neglect was shocking".

The independent MLA added: "She is in need of a lot of support to help her sort her life out. But the most shocking part of this heartbreaking case is how it got this far."

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