Belfast Telegraph

Mum drunk in charge of autistic child blames her medication

Woman in police assault who took boy (4) on her binge blames medication

By Nevin Farrell and Lesley Houston

The mother of an autistic boy who received a suspended jail sentence for being drunk in charge of the four-year-old said she had "been at the end of her tether with stress" at the time.

Tara Jane Lawther from Templepatrick was sentenced to three months in jail, suspended for a year, after she lashed out at police after drinking too much with a friend during a day out in Portrush in October.

The 46-year-old single mum, of Templeton Park, blamed her anti-anxiety medication for her blacking out after drinking wine. She said she had resorted to the medication after being the victim of anonymous malicious complaints to social services about her role as a mother.

Lawther appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court yesterday.

The court judge said it was a "quite harrowing" case after hearing from the prosecutor that, on October 10 this year, the defendant had gone to Coast in Portrush with a friend, got drunk and became abusive to staff. When the police arrived, she kicked a number of officers and also assaulted a civilian outside the premises.

Door staff were also punched, the prosecuting lawyer said. A defence lawyer said that on the day in question Lawther felt she needed a break and took her child to Portrush, but the alcohol mixed with medication she was taking for anxiety.

The lawyer said the defendant is "totally ashamed" and her child is now under a safe care plan, with which she is co-operating fully.

The lawyer said Lawther has now referred herself to an addictions programme.

District Judge Peter King said some of the statements made in the case were "quite harrowing".

He said the case was so concerning he had no hesitation in imposing a suspended sentence.

The judge said he understood being a lone parent of a special needs child could be difficult, but it also brought with it a special responsibility.

He warned Lawther such an offence " cannot ever happen again".

The defendant had previously pleaded guilty to charges of being drunk in charge of a child under the age of seven; disorderly behaviour and three assaults, two of which were on police.

Speaking yesterday to the Belfast Telegraph, the woman defended herself, stating she was devoted to her son and would do anything for him. That included her participation on the addiction course despite not suffering from alcoholism.

She said that on the day of the offence she had been overwrought due to a number of serious and "anonymous complaints" against her fitness as a mother.

She said the stress prompted her to seek help from her GP who prescribed diazepam, and it was the tablets, combined with the wine, which made her black out, she said.

"I remember having about four glasses of wine and then nothing. I don't remember anything until I woke up in the cell." she said.

She said the anonymous complaints against her, which she said were totally unfounded, had made her feel "at the end of my tether".

She said she felt completely on her own, not being with the child's father, and said she had very little support.

Referring to her son, who suffers from autism, Asperger's syndrome and ODD (oppositional defiance disorder), Lawther said: "I don't get any breaks at all. I'm under a great deal of stress and I've got no support.

"He's at school for all of two hours a day and when he's there I go up to my mum, who is ill.

"I feel I can't even breathe sometimes with the stress of it."

The woman said she was angry that she had no protection against the allegations made against her.

"There should be legislation where you should have to give your name because they've said terrible things and nobody's given their name." She added: "I waited 20 years for him (her son), so I would never spoil things."

Belfast Telegraph


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