Autistic Rights Together

Press Release concerning the Bernadette Scully trial and verdict

Today, the 16th of December 2016, the jury in the trial of Bernadette Scully returned a verdict of 'not guilty'. Bernadette Scully was facing a charge of the manslaughter of her disabled daughter Emily by way of an overdose of the sedative Chloral Hydrate.

Please see below an excerpt from the prosecutions closing statement:


"The level of the sedative found in Emily's system was ten times the therapeutic level and State Pathologist Marie Cassidy had said in her opinion the cause of death was chloral hydrate intoxication.

While Prof Cassidy said any one of Emily's medical conditions could also have caused her death on any given day, the State Pathologist did not demure from her opinion that the cause of death was chloral hydrate.

There had been a suggestion by the defence that Emily might have died from an epileptic fit but the presence of red neurons found in brain tissue indicated that she had survived that seizure, Ms Burns said.

She said the evidence had shown that Dr Scully had an absolute rule that no more than 20mls of chloral hydrate should be administered in 24 hours and on 15 September 2012 she had "broken all her rules" and administered at least 32mls in a nine-hour period.

She said there were even question marks over that estimate because in her voluntary interviews days after the event she said three times she did not know how much she had given.

She said by 6am that day she had already exceeded the most she would ever have given.

She said Dr Scully was acting as a GP that night and medicine has to be respected - limits and time limits and quantities are important.

Ms Burns also said Dr Scully's conduct after her daughter's death did not equate with a belief that she had died from natural causes.

She said the attempts to take her own life and the note she wrote was evidence of acceptance of responsibility for Emily's death.

She said Dr Scully had not told her partner that Emily was dead in the bedroom when he returned and this conduct should also be looked at by the jury.

"I have to submit to you that she was grossly negligent and have to urge upon you to return a guilty verdict in this case."


The defence team hinged their argument on emotional pleas, focusing on the hardship of having a disabled child and the exhaustion of the Mother.

Financial strain and debt was also used by the defence team.

Sadly this is common practise when parents are accused of killing their disabled children, often resulting in the reduction of initial charges and/or extremely lenient sentences.

Absolute sympathy for the accused seems to be the overriding sentiment, and it was no different in the Scully trial.

This verdict only compounds recent injustices such as in the case of Autistic boy Alex Spourdalakis, who was brutally stabbed to death in 2013 by his Mother and Godmother in the US.

Both of these women avoided a Murder charge and trial due to the initial charge being downgraded from murder to manslaughter and a guilty plea entered by the accused.

They were released from jail last Wednesday after serving only 3 and a half years.

These judgements are setting precedents for future cases, in a nutshell, the message is that the murder of a disabled child is somehow less serious and the accused warrants sympathy and leniency.

Although our calls for justice for the victim have in recent times been widely and vehemently opposed, we stand with the Disabled community and call for the protection of all disabled people in the eyes of the law.

Below are a few statements from people who reached out to us today, expressing their concerns and emotions after the trial and verdict:


"Today a verdict of not guilty has been reached after 4 hours. 4 hours is all it took for a cross section of society to decide that the life of a very vulnerable little girl was worth less than the mental health of the person who was supposed to be providing care for her and protecting her.
This person was a qualified medical professional, this person gave birth to her and it has been said over and over that she loved her deeply.
This trained medical professional administered a medication that she knew had very serious risks and she administered in a way that she knew would cause harm. Not only did she administer it in a way she knew would cause harm, she never sought help when she knew harm had been caused. The very person meant to protect Emily, that was this vulnerable little girls name, Emily.
There has been a massive outpouring of sympathy towards the GP, but no mention of the fact that a little girl died. To me this sends a message that as long as there are extenuating circumstances society deems it acceptable to cause death. The fact it has gone through the courts now means a legal precedent has also been set. Emily died, she was overdosed by a person trained to prescribe and monitor dosages, this person then failed to get her the help she needed in contradiction to the training this person had received.
Today is a sad day, our society failed a little girl that needed that extra bit of protection, not only was the person who killed allowed to continue with their life, unlike her, but there has been an outpouring of sympathy towards the very person who directly failed her"




"This is a bad day for disabled people in Ireland. Even more shocking than the verdict are the amount of comments on Twitter expressing 'delight' that Bernadette Scully has gone free with almost nothing said about her daughter, Emily Barut. Imagine if a child had died in this fashion in a hospital or care home? Who will now protect disabled people in their own homes?"



David J McDonagh

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