Tuesday 17 September 2019

Tusla secures High Court order for girl (16) to remain in secure unit amid concerns for wellbeing

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Aodhan O Faolain & Ray Managh

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency (CFA), has secured High Court orders allowing it to keep a 16-year-old girl who claims she was sexually abused by her brother at a special unit for troubled teenagers for an additional three months.

The CFA says the teen, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, requires to be cared for at a secure unit because she had been engaging in at-risk behaviour which placed her life and safety in danger. 

The court heard that the girl's claims she was sexually abused by an older brother is the subject of a current Garda investigation.

She also claims she was emotionally and physically abused by her mother and her mother's partner.

She is at risk of sexual exploitation and has been in a relationship with a 25-year-old man.

The CFA had concerns that she had been assaulted by members of his family, and the girl had claimed she had a miscarriage following a fall. 

There are concerns for her physical and mental health, and she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the court heard.

She had also taken overdoses of painkillers in recent months, it was claimed.  

As a result of concerns about her wellbeing, the CFA sought orders allowing it to place her at a secure unit.

The girl has spent the last number of weeks at the special care unit on foot of temporary orders previously granted by the High Court.

On Tuesday, the CFA returned to Court seeking to extend the girl's detention at the unit for an additional three months.

Seeking the orders David Leahy, Bl for the CFA, said the girl had been in various non-secure placements, including foster care for just over a year. 

None of the placements had worked out, counsel said, adding that the girl had a history of absconding for long periods. 

She had also left the jurisdiction, and had to be returned to Ireland from the UK.

On one occasion, the girl had been found alone and abandoned outside a pub at 4.30am, counsel said.

Counsel said that there were concerns about the man the girl had been having a relationship with.

It was believed that the she had been assaulted by members of her boyfriend's family, that the man was attempting to find a place for them to live together, and that the girl had said she had been using the morning after pill as a form of contraception.

She needs to be at the unit so that her needs can be addressed, counsel said, adding that Gardai were also supporting the CFA's application to keep the teen in secure care.

Counsel said that while it was accepted that she didn't want to be at the secure unit, she had settled quite well.

The court heard that the girl's court-appointed guardian, known as the guardian at litem, was supporting the CFA's application for an extension. 

In a report to the court, the guardian said the girl wants to leave the facility as soon as possible.

She had also expressed her frustration to the guardian over the "injustice of being locked up" while her alleged abuser remains out free, the court heard. 

The girl's mother while not formally consenting to the application had previously indicated to those charged with her care by telephone that she supported the application to extend the period of detention.

The three-month extension was granted by Mr Justice Michael McGrath, who said he was quite satisfied to grant the orders sought in what is "quite a sad and very difficult case."

Adjourning the case to a date in May the Judge also made a recommendation that the teen be kept informed of any development in the Gardai investigation into her allegations of being sexually abused. 

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