Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Sinn Fein councillor Briege Meehan sentencing adjourned

A former Sinn Fein councillor who pleaded guilty to assault and child cruelty charges against her stepdaughter has had her sentencing adjourned until Friday.

Opening the facts of the prosecution case against 65-year-old Briege Meehan at Belfast Crown Court, prosecuting QC Frank O'Donoghue recounted how, over a 15 month period between July 14, 1979 and October the following year, she hit her stepdaughter on the head with a glass baby's bottle, forced her to smoke numerous cigarettes as a punishment and also to sleep in her urine-soaked bed.

Last month before her trial began Meehan, from Elmfield Street and the widow of the IRA's former north Belfast commander Martin Meehan, pleaded guilty to charges of assault and cruelty towards her stepdaughter Mary when she was ten years old.

She had also been charged with seven counts of sexually abusing her stepdaughter but those were "left on the books" after she pleaded guilty to charges on an amended indictment.

At the time of the offences, the court heard, Martin Meehan was either in custody or on the run leaving Briege Meehan, who was eight months pregnant at the time, to look after his three children.

Mr O'Donoghue said Mary was at one time caught smoking, so by way of punishment or deterrence, Briege Meehan forced the child to smoke an unknown number of cigarettes, adding that that incident related to a count of child cruelty while another count accused her of injuring her, either with a brush shaft or a shoe.

He told the court how Mary suffered from instances of bed wetting but that her stepmother "forced her to sleep on the wet sheets".

The lawyer said the child was eventually rescued by Social Services and placed into care in October 1980 and a medical examination revealed 20 bruises sustained while in the care of Briege Meehan.

Defence QC Karen Quinlivan argued that while it was a serious matter, the level of physical abuse was "at the lower end of the scale" for which Meehan had been widely criticised in the media and her own community.

She said that Meehan had "expressed remorse" for the way she treated her stepdaughter but added that the care of all three children came about "quite abruptly" when Martin Meehan senior was put into jail and she was left filling the shoes of their mother who had tragically died from cancer.

Releasing Meehan on continuing bail, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said he would review all the papers in the case and pass sentence on Friday.
 

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