Monday 26 August 2019

Woman to sue State agencies over failure to protect her from abuse as a child

'Horror story' as girl allegedly sexually abused by a dozen men

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tim Healy

A woman who was allegedly sexually abused by more than 12 males while she was a child is suing State agencies over "appalling" failures to protect her.

President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday authorised taking the legal action on the woman's behalf. She is a ward of court and lives in a residential care unit.

Mr Justice Kelly said senior counsel Sara Moorhead has described a "horror story" when setting out the grounds for a case to be brought against the HSE and the Child and Family Agency (CFA) by the general solicitor for wards of court, on behalf of the woman.

The opinion described an "appalling failure of duty" on the part of State institutions to protect someone "most vulnerable", he said.

It stated that, despite an apparent view by professionals at a case conference held when the girl was aged two that she should be taken into care, the CFA advised the conference it had no suitable placement for her.

Social workers, Ms Moorhead said, were familiar with the girl's family before she was born.

The judge noted that, in the year of her birth, a public health nurse made a referral to the social work department outlining alleged physical abuse by the girl's father towards her older siblings and raising questions about the ability of the mother to cope with a further pregnancy.

Supports were provided but the girl remained in the family home until she was taken into care aged 10.

Following this, she made disclosures, found to be credible, of alleged sexual abuse by more than 12 named individuals from her local area.

Criminal proceedings are pending against her mother and maternal grandfather arising from these disclosures.

The girl was separately made a ward of court last year as she was about to turn 18.

Patricia Hickey, general solicitor for wards of court, has now - based on the opinion from Ms Moorhead - taken the view legal action should be initiated on the ward's behalf, arising from the alleged failures of State entities to protect her.

Having read counsel's opinion, Mr Justice Kelly authorised David Leahy BL, for Ms Hickey, to issue proceedings against the HSE and CFA.

He said he was grateful to Ms Hickey for the research and work done to date which had elicited the "very unhappy" situation set out in Ms Moorhead's opinion.

That opinion, he noted, said supports were put in place for the family when the girl was aged around a year.

When still aged under two, a child protection case conference concluded there was a "high" level of concern regarding the family and agreed a core group of professionals, including a social worker and family support worker, would visit daily.

Just months later, a further case conference concluded concerns were at an extremely high level and the extensive community supports had not made a difference.

Irish Independent

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