Monday 19 March 2018

Youth in care who 'bullied' staff through series of assaults is detained for four months

Dublin Children's Court
Dublin Children's Court

Tom Tuite

A youth, who bullied staff at a children’s care home through a series of assaults has been detained for four months.

The Dublin Children’s Court heard that in one incident he smashed his way through a bathroom door just as a female care worker had finished going to the toilet and afterwards he kicked her in the chest.

The 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty to assault and criminal damage charges and was described as a huge risk to care workers.

Judge John O’Connor noted the teenager has continued to be aggressive to staff in his care home and then put Probation Service staff in fear.

He noted mitigating factors and reduced a possible 12 month term to four months in custody followed by four months post release probation supervision.

“You are a bully, it is not a nice thing to say,” he told the youth, who nodded but remained silent during the hearing.

The judge told the teen’s mother, who complained about social workers, that she was only blaming others and had not shown she was ashamed by what her son had done.

Defence counsel Alison Fynes said she was instructed to apologise for his behaviour and she said that he has begun engaging in an education programme.

The court that in recent weeks he has also been found under the influence of substances and was aggressive to his probation officer was left afraid of him.

Judge O’Connor heard the incidents happened at a care home in Dublin on various dates in 2016 and earlier this year but since then the teenager has continued to be threatening to staff in the unit. He had said the teenager was a huge risk to care workers.

The court heard that on date in April this year he caused €237 worth of damage with a kick to a car used by the facility to bring children around. On another date he caused €900 worth of damage to one of the unit’s cars.

Last December staff reported to gardai that the boy had attacked a female worker driving a car. He was in the back seat and “proceeded to punch the back of her seat several times causing her pain but no physical injuries”.

In November last year he put another woman, who worked in the unit, in fear; she felt threatened she would be assaulted because “she would not give him a lighter”.

Later that day he twice punched a male staff member in the chest and pushed an office door which struck the man causing bruising to his thumb.

During another incident, also in November 2016, the teenager had asked a female care worker to bring him to visit his mother but he was told that this was not possible at that time. The woman then went to make a phone call and the teenager burst into her office damaging the lock.

She tried to leave but the youth put his hand on her shoulder and pushed her back. The care worker went to another room but the teen kicked in door.

He kicked her in the chest and she was described as shaken but did not need medical attention.

The teen has five prior convictions for theft, criminal damage, threatening to kill or cause serious harm, vehicle theft and producing a weapon during a dispute. However, he had never served a custodial sentence before.

The defence said the youth had been affected by the death of his grandfather who had been “more like a father to him” from early childhood.

The judge noted the assaults were prior to the death but counsel explained that the teenager was told of his grandfather’s seriousness illness around the time of the attacks.

Drugs had caused the youth’s violent behaviour, counsel said, adding, that the boy was “hanging around with a certain crowd”.

The court heard the teenager has refused to attend drug addiction and anger management counselling. There were concerns over people he had been associating with in recent months and he had gone missing from care.

At a previous hearing Judge O’Connor had said the teenager has reached the threshold for a custodial sentence unless there was a “totally different change of attitude”. Referring to the boy’s physical size, he had said the teen was “big guy” and was a huge risk to staff at the facility.

The teenager had been warned at earlier stages that if his threatening behaviour continued he could expect a custodial sentence.

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