Friday 28 July 2017

Disabled woman let leave care facility found 'drugged' in Travellers' camp

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said the woman underwent a “terrifying ordeal” and her parents endured a “nightmare”. (Stock picture)
The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said the woman underwent a “terrifying ordeal” and her parents endured a “nightmare”. (Stock picture)

Tim Healy

A young disabled woman with the mental age of a 10-year-old was removed in a filthy, distressed and apparently drugged state from a Traveller camp several days after leaving a private care facility, the High Court heard.

A young man told the court he had consensual sex with the woman, whom he knew from the past, had not raped or harmed her, and is in love with her. The young man, who is a Traveller, has a number of psychiatric conditions, he also said.

The court heard the woman was living in a private care facility and had left the care home while her parents were abroad "without any alarm bells being rung", the judge said.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said the woman underwent a "terrifying ordeal" and her parents endured a "nightmare".

The facts of the case were "as shocking as they are extraordinary" and are now subject of a HSE investigation.

A HSE officer agreed the evidence was "alarming" and expected its investigation to conclude quickly.

The court heard the young woman, on her removal from the site last week, had torn leggings, no underwear, her clothes were filthy and she appeared to have faeces on the back of her shirt. Her speech was slurred and it seemed she had not taken her prescribed medication and other drugs or agents gave rise to her condition.

Aged in her 20s with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities, she was placed in the private facility some years ago because her disabilities meant she could not be cared for at home.

She left the premises on April 29 and returned there with the man on May 1 to collect her allowance when she was again permitted leave.

Her parents were abroad on business from April 29 and were contacted that day by the premises to say their daughter had left but she was being monitored and they should not contact her as it was expected she would return.

The parents' increasing concerns led to them contacting gardaí on May 3 when they returned home.

On May 9, the HSE indicated to an emergency sitting of the High Court it would seek to have her made a ward of court and secured orders permitting gardaí remove her from the site and return her to the private facility. Her parents expressed a range of concerns about the facility's handling of the situation and they do not want her to stay there.

Becoming upset, her father said the last thing his daughter said to him before initially going there was: "Daddy, will I be OK?"

"I said, 'Yes, I promise you.' How can she believe me again?"

There should have been procedures not to let a person with special needs to "just walk away", the father said.

Mr Justice Kelly, who noted the court is awaiting a report from the private facility about what happened, said the HSE evidence is the woman must remain there in the short term because no alternative is immediately available.

A HSE official said efforts were continuing to find a suitable placement.

Noting medical evidence the woman lacks capacity and should be made a ward of court, the judge will decide that later this month.

Irish Independent

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