Courts

Friday 11 July 2014

Teen spared jail over 'rage' incident at children's home

TOM TUITE

Published 13/12/2013|13:42

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A TROUBLED 15-year-old boy, who attacked care staff, vandalised a children's home and stole a car during a “fit of rage”, has been spared a sentence.

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The Dublin Children's Court heard that the boy, who has been in care since 2006, had a number of placements, many of which broke down and he had engaged in a litany of risk-taking behaviour.

His guardian ad litem also told the juvenile court that the boy had found it difficult that he could not live with his mother and felt that the care system's staff were trying “to replace his mother”.

The youngster had told his court appointed guardian that “I can not understand why I cannot be at home”, the court heard.

Assessments had found that the teenager was not suitable for mainstream care placements but a HSE committee had refused to give him a place in high support facility for troubled teens.

Defence solicitor Gareth Noble told Judge John O'Connor that the vast bulk of the boy's offending related to incidents while he was in the care system. The existence of criminal proceedings were also acting as a barrier to his care needs being met in an appropriate format, the lawyer also said.

Judge O'Connor, who had also been furnished with background reports on the boy, said it was a difficult case and the juvenile court did not deal with care matters. He also said he found it extraordinary and it offended him that the HSE, which was acting in the role of parents, was asking the court to put the teenager into detention.

The judge also noted the seriousness of the incidents adding that the teen's unacceptable behaviour could not be condoned and that there had been victims, but he added: “I am not going to criminalise someone who should be dealt with in a civil way”.

The boy was bound to the peace for two years but warned that if he re-offends within that period he will be brought back to the court to face the risk of going into detention.

At one stage, the teenager had been going missing from care and after being out of education for a number of months, he had returned to school.

The young boy, who has been living in a mainstream HSE run care unit for troubled teens, needed to get counselling for substance abuse and mental health issues, the court had been told.

Judge O'Connor has said it seemed likely that the boy suffered from “serious attachment issues”.

The juvenile court had also heard that the teen had engaged in a number of “risk taking” incidents and had also been caught possessing cannabis at a children's home.

On October 8 last year, gardai responded to a report of a disruption at the unit and found that the boy had “broken door handles and rubbish was thrown around the place”. A few days earlier the teenager broke a picture frame a door and a table.

Also in October last year, he stole a car from the unit and briefly took it “for a spin” before he was persuaded by youth workers to get out of the vehicle.

He had pushed a care worker beforehand when he was taking the keys to the car.

On a date in September last year, he threw a half-filled bottle at a female youth worker who was hit on the side of her face.

A few weeks previously, gardai took a report that there was an illegal substance at the residential unit and the boy was found with €250 worth of cannabis.

On September 26 last year, during another “fit of rage” at the unit, after he was told he could not make a phone call, he “kicked the door of the office and broke it in half”. He then smashed up a chair and a wardrobe.

The court also heard that after each incident he was compliant and made admissions to gardaí.

The boy, who has no prior criminal convictions, has been the subject of intervention from social services for the past seven years, the court has heard.

The troubled teen had pleaded guilty to drug possession, motor theft, assault and criminal damage charges, and the court had been told previously that he has shown remorse.

More guilty pleas were entered in relation to two more recent criminal damage incidents where he damaged property in his latest care home placements, in May and June this year.

He also admitted drug possession and breach of the peace charges in connection with a public order incident in June where he "lashed out" at a garda after which he was found to be carrying €10 worth of cannabis.

In October and September this year, he had broken a cooker and a door, and had also set off a fire extinguisher at his current accommodation.

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