Monday 14 October 2019

Woman who alleges she was abused by 12 people feels her views about her care 'not being taken into account', High Court hears

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A very vulnerable young woman allegedly subject to “devastating” sexual abuse at home by more than 12 local individuals before being taken into care aged ten believes her views concerning her future placement are "not being taken into account", the High Court has heard.

Last December, before the girl turned 18, the general solicitor for wards of court, Patrica Hickey, was appointed to represent her interests. Her court appointed guardian, who has been involved with her since she was taken into care, was also retained.

The woman's mother and grandfather are both facing criminal proceedings arising from allegations made by her.

On Tuesday, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, noted reports from a court appointed medical visitor and a consultant psychiatrist both expressed the view that the woman, for the purpose of adult wardship, can be considered of unsound mind and incapable of managing her own affairs and requiring residency in a unit with a high staff ratio.

Based on those reports, Mr Justice Kelly directed the woman remain in wardship.

Gerard Durcan SC, for the HSE, said work to facilitate her transition within a number of weeks from her current placement to another unit is continuing. Her clinical team favoured that unit and the HSE is working in accordance with their views.

The woman wants to go to a different unit and her guardian agrees with her but has also expressed a view the unit proposed by the clinical team is appropriate, he said.

Addressing concerns a middle aged man is resident in the proposed placement unit, he said that man is in a separate part with a separate entrance.

Sara Moorhead SC, for the general solicitor, said her side are neither opposing nor endorsing the transition plan but are concerned about the absence of written information and detail about it and wanted more information and dialogue.

In the context of the girl's allegations of serious sexual abuse in the past, they were concerned it appeared the only other resident of the proposed unit as of now is a middle aged man.

The young woman has "a fear of uncertainty" and full information must be provided for any placement to work, she said.

While accepting her wishes are "not paramount", she feels they are "not being taken into account at all", counsel added.

Diane Duggan BL, for the guardian, said the concern is the transition plan is moving at an unsteady rate. Her side did not want it to stop but there was need for "clarity". If the young woman felt she was being listened to, there was a better chance of the placement succeeding, counsel added.

Mr Durcan said risk assessment is taking place all the time, dialogue will be facilitated and any change in the clinical team's view would be taken into account.

Mr Justice Kelly said the transition arrangements should continue unless and until there is any change and there should be some final form of that towards the end of June. In the interim, the woman will remain in her current unit with liberty to all sides to apply to the court.

Previously, the court heard the guardian had raised serious concerns about why the girl and her siblings were not taken into care earlier as social work services were familiar with the family before the girl was born.

The girl has named more than 12 individuals in her local area whom she alleged came to her home and abused her in her bedroom before she was taken into care. A brother also made disclosures of sexual abuse of him by family members.

The father left the home when the girl was aged four and, while family supports were provided, concerns about the ability of the mother, who had certain difficulties of her own, to manage and safely parent the children continued and increased, the court heard.

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