Saturday 16 December 2017

Photo of mystery girl found on street set to be released

Tim Healy and Sarah Stack

GARDAI and the HSE are at odds over a legal bid to identify a teenage girl found dazed and wandering in Dublin.

Detectives launched a major probe after she was found in a distressed state in the city centre.

More than 80 lines of inquiry have been investigated by gardai to try to find out who the girl is. She is aged between 14 and 16.

Yesterday, lawyers for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan asked a judge for permission to release a photo of the girl, who is in state care and under armed guard in a hospital.

The High Court was told that officers have exhausted all options to identify her, her family background or simply where she came from.

The girl was found in the city centre three weeks ago and gardai say their only option now was to release a photograph.

But the HSE has opposed this after concerns were raised by social workers that it may have a disturbing effect on her.

The HSE is also being sued by a legal guardian appointed by the courts. The guardian has launched a legal challenge against a decision by the HSE to move the girl from the hospital to a non-secure care facility.

Lawyers for the guardian, who want her placed in a secure unit, said any delay in identifying the child could damage her welfare and that releasing the photograph was in her best interest.

But Tim O'Leary, senior counsel for the HSE, said staff did not agree with this.

He said: "The social workers believe that at this stage it may have a disturbing effect on her. They do not believe it's in her best interest."

However, barrister Genevieve Coonan, for the Garda Commissioner, said officers had now used every avenue open to them without going public.

"The only option at this time is to release a photograph," she said.


Mr Justice George Birmingham will make his decision on whether to release a photograph on Monday but indicated that he would allow the image to be shown to the public unless "circumstances change".

Ms Coonan told the court the girl had already tried to leave the hospital on a number of occasions, adding: "The circumstances she was found in indicate a criminal offence was carried out on her."

Separately, the lawyer for the guardian argued that the girl should be placed in a secure unit and requested that part of the case be adjourned for a week.

Senior counsel Felix McEnroy gave a handwritten letter to the judge, which he said was from the girl, and said: "The minor is very pleased in relation to the involvement of the court. Her letter remarks (that) she is inviting the court to assist."

The judge adjourned the care aspect of the case until next Thursday.

He rejected an application by the HSE for the case to be held in camera, saying childcare matters were in the public interest and that there seemed to be public interest in how the authorities respond to cases such as this.

Irish Independent

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