Tuesday 20 February 2018

Challenge over judge’s decision in child neglect case

Judge Colin Daly
Judge Colin Daly

A legal challenge has been brought against a District Court judge's decision in a child neglect case.

In late June, the Child and Family Agency (DFA) sought an interim care order for a young girl who has missed more than half of her schooldays in the last three years.

The District Court heard the CFA had serious concerns about the child and about her mother, who suffers from drug addition. The family involved in the case cannot be identified for legal reasons.

The matter came before Judge Colin Daly at Dublin District Court.

After making the order sought by the CFA, the Judge then directed that the child be placed in the care of her parents. He also ordered the child's parents to take part in and fully attend support meetings and take part in various programmes.

In High Court proceedings by the CFA, which at the start of the year assumed responsibility from the Health Service Executive for child welfare and protection services, it is claimed the judge erred in law by directing that the child should be placed in the care of her parents.

Once a finding of neglect has been made, the court has no jurisdiction to direct where the child, the subject of that order, should be placed.

Once such an order is made the law states that the child must be placed in the care of the CFA, it is aruged.

The CFA wants Judge Daly's decision, made earlier this month, quashed. It also seeks a declaration that Judge Daly's order was made in excess of jurisdiction. The child's parents are notice parties to the action.

Yesterday Shane Costelloe Bl, for the CFA, said the CFA sought the care order due to its concerns about the child's welfare due to the mothers lifestyle, drug abuse, and living arrangements. The mother had failed to engage with services provided by the CFA/HSE.

Since early 2012 the child had been missing a lot of school. In one academic year the child missed 91 out of 183 school days and had to repeat the year. The following year the child missed 96 out of 181 days, while last year she missed 114 out of 181 days.

Counsel said the mother and child have moved some 10 times in several years. At one stage the mother, after separating from her partner, and the child were homeless.

The CFA sought an a temporary order under Child Care Act to take the child into care for a limited period.

The matter came before Judge Daly, who heard evidence that the mother was receiving treatment for her drug problem.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Daly made the care order after being satisfied the chronic non-attendance at school by the child amounted to educational neglect. The mother had allowed the non attendance to occur, he found.

Judge Daly then directed the CFA to place the child in the care of her parents. The CFA objected to the Judge's direction.

Judge Daly said he was entitled to make the order as section 47 of the Child Care Act permitted him to make any direction he felt necessary to affect the welfare of the child.

Leave to bring the proceedings was granted yesterday by Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley who adjourned the matter to later this month.

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