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Toddler taken into care over fears she could be hurt by abuse victim mum

By Alan Erwin

Published 29/07/2015

The daughter of a woman in Northern Ireland whose mind
The daughter of a woman in Northern Ireland whose mind "shattered" into multiple personalities after being sexually abused in her own childhood is to be taken into care, a High Court judge has ordered. Picture posed

The daughter of a woman in Northern Ireland whose mind "shattered" into multiple personalities after being sexually abused in her own childhood is to be taken into care, a High Court judge has ordered.

Mr Justice O'Hara ruled that the step was necessary due to the real and serious risk of harm to the two-year-old girl as her mother switches from one identity to another.

In one episode last year the woman, referred to as 'P', tried to hang herself while she was looking after her child, identified only as 'M'.

Deciding such interference with their human rights was unavoidable, the judge set out how the little girl would find it emotionally confusing to see her mother's personality alter between that of a four-year-old, a teenager and a woman in her twenties.

He said: "This is not a fanciful description of what can happen - it is the reality of P's life, caused overwhelmingly by the sordid conduct and abuse by others which leaves her in my judgment, for the present at least, unable to care for M."

The woman, now aged 26, suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID). Although now separated from M's father, she is again pregnant by him.

In December last year a health and social care trust involved in the case removed the girl from P after she attempted suicide. After that intervention it went to court seeking a care order for M.

The application was opposed by P, who argued it was wrong to deprive the child of the care of a mother who has never hurt her.

However, M's father backed proposals for his mother and stepfather to become her primary carers. Assessments by experts in personality disorders agreed that P is deeply affected by her psychiatric condition.

One psychologist concluded that her disorder is the product of severe, recurrent childhood trauma at the hands of a number of sexual abusers, the court heard.

In a newly published judgment, Mr Justice O'Hara said: "In an effort to cope with this abuse her mind has shattered into fragmented states or personalities."

She can suffer amnesia and switch from one identity to another with regularity. To cope, P has tried to develop a pattern of leaving notes for the next personality to be informed by. Some of her identities can be girls under 10 or teenagers with different behaviour patterns.

Therapeutic intervention would take a minimum of five years, according to experts.

Even then, some patients do not revert to a single personality.

Despite the fact M has never been physically harmed by her mother, a psychologist was clear that she is at significant risk.

She emphasised that nobody knows what goes on in P's mind as she switches between personalities. The possibility of P being contacted by one of her abusers was said to be a major concern.

Mr Justice O'Hara said: "Sadly, within her evidence she herself expressed exactly what the problem is without realising it when she said M 'has five personalities as main carers and all are very unified for her'.

"I do not suggest that she would deliberately harm M physically, but there is a clear and substantial risk of such harm as she switches from one identity or alters to another one such as a child under 10."

He also directed that mother and daughter should at first continue to have weekly contact.

He said: "I find that a reduction to less than once per week would be an excessive and unjustified interference with the rights of this family."

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