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Wednesday 21 August 2019

Alleged attack on girl (5) lured to shed may have been 'a copycat'

Gardaí probe if boys influenced by violent material online or in media

Specialist gardaí are probing the allegation. Photo: PA
Specialist gardaí are probing the allegation. Photo: PA

Ken Foy

Gardaí investigating an alleged attack on a five-year-old girl by three young boys are working to establish whether they were influenced by violent material - either online or in traditional media.

Detectives are looking into whether it was a "copycat" incident and what, if any, relevant material the boys had accessed.

Gardaí are investigating evidence the little girl was "lured' to a derelict house and beaten by the boys - aged seven, eight, and 10.

They had also allegedly tried to sexually assault her in a shed before she escaped and raised the alarm.

The young girl knew the three boys and is understood to live close to them.

She was allegedly beaten with sticks but did not receive serious injuries.

The attack happened a fortnight ago in the north-east of the country.

"Everything is being looked at by specialist gardaí in the local divisional protective services unit in that area," a senior source said last night.

"This includes whether the boys in question may have been influenced by online material or information they observed in the general media.

"The issue of whether what happened is a so-called 'copy­cat crime' is being looked at but it is not clear at this stage.

"What is clear is that the three boys are children and they are all under the age of criminal responsibility, which means there will never be a prosecution in the case.

"Yes, this is a very, very sensitive investigation but it has to be noted that the female child only suffered minor injuries when she was hit by sticks in the shed of that house.

"While there were attempts at what is best described as inappropriate touching in this situation, the child was not sexually assaulted before she got out of the situation," the senior source added.

The case has also been referred to Tusla, the child and family agency.

Its role is to assess whether there is a child protection issue and whether a child is at risk.

Gardaí confirmed an investigation is under way but did not provide exact details about the "extremely sensitive" case.

The Children Act 2001 defines that no child under the age of 12 can be charged with a criminal offence.

Detectives are waiting to conduct specialist interviews with all four children involved, all of whom are aged 10 or under.

Gardaí have received an account that the five-year-old girl went with the three boys to a shed beside a derelict house and was beaten with sticks by the boys.

She managed to escape by fighting the boys off and ran home and informed her parents, who contacted gardaí and made an official complaint.

There are no plans for any arrests and sources say that gardaí will deal with the case in a "highly sensitive way".

Irish Independent

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