Home-alone teenage boy 'committing crime to buy food'
A JUDGE has called for a probe into the case of a young boy described as "committing crime to get money for food" despite being known to child-protection agencies for the past 12 years.
Judge Conal Gibbons said at the Dublin Children's Court earlier this week that the HSE had "lost the plot" after he heard that the boy has been living "home alone".
The boy, who is in his mid-teens, is charged with attempting to break into a car, theft of a bicycle and criminal damage.
Judge Gibbons had been told that the boy's parents are not available to care for him and currently not residing with him, that he had been living home alone after another relative tried to look after him but they had a row, and the teenager was "committing crime to get money for food".
He gave bail to the boy on Wednesday after hearing that an older sibling, who has just reached adulthood, would look after him.
Yesterday, the case resumed and the judge told a solicitor for the HSE that gardai had been forced to ask the court to make an unconstitutional order to remand the boy in custody on welfare grounds.
The judge, who refused to make that direction, said this outraged him.
He praised the team of social workers who have been handling the boy's case, noting that one of them had contacted the boy more than 70 times in the past eight months.
He also said he was aware of the lack of resources available, but he said the boy's family had first come to the notice of the HSE in 2000. In 2006 gardai also reported that things were getting "worse".
The judge said the handling of the boy's case should be looked at by the Children's Ombudsman or the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
The boy had been found to be at "high risk" and his older sibling, who is also a teenager, had to step into the breach on Wednesday, he said.
Solicitor for the HSE, Ciara Farrell, listed a range of services that had been offered to the teenager including a placement in a residential care unit. The boy did not fulfil criteria for a secure care placement but highly-qualified social workers have been involved in his case, she said.
The judge was also told that the family member, whom the boy had rowed with earlier this week, would take him back.
The teenager, who has not yet entered pleas to his charges, was ordered to appear again next week.