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Saturday 17 February 2018

Garda failed to help search for tragic boy

Edel O'Connell

THE family of a boy who committed suicide while in care believe he could still be alive today if he had received adequate support from the health services and gardai.

Devlin Kavanagh (14), from Castledermot, Co Kildare, hanged himself just a few kilometres from his home on December 5, 2006 -- shortly after being told that he would be returned to the Ballydowd secure care home in west Dublin.

The case is one of 10 damning investigations by the Ombudsman for Children, which have been released to highlight the lack of awareness about the impact of decision-making on the lives of children.

Separate reports carried out by the Garda Ombudsman Commission and the Ombudsman for Children, in response to complaints made by the teenager's mother, were also released yesterday.

The Garda Ombudsman investigation found that a garda involved in the search for Devlin on the night of his death was "in breach of discipline in his failure to prosecute adequately the search for the teenager". However, the garda subsequently retired and so was not subject to any disciplinary regulations.

A separate report conducted by Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan was critical of the fact that the HSE allocated Devlin's very "complex case" to a young social care worker who had been in the department "for only three weeks".

The boy's mother, Orla Kavanagh Doyle, and her husband Mark told the Irish Independent that if their son had received adequate support he may not have killed himself.

The teenager had told his mother that if he was returned to Ballydowd care centre he would kill himself. She relayed his comments to social workers.

However, that weekend a young social worker told Devlin he was going back to Ballydowd.

On the night of his death, Devlin's mother became concerned when he absconded in her car. She called the gardai at about 11pm.

The boy's mother claims she called the station again at 1.05am after receiving a call from her son and gave the gardai information as to his exact location. However, officers who were interviewed said they had no recollection of this call.


The Garda Ombudsman report says 'Sergeant C' did make efforts to determine Devlin's whereabouts.

However, it says another officer known as 'Garda P' did not make steps "such as placing a trace on the boy's phone, which might have enabled the boy's whereabouts to be pinpointed".

The teenager was discovered the following day, hanging from a tree less than one-quarter of a kilometre from where his mother thought he was.

Mrs Kavanagh Doyle said that prior to 2005 they had lived "a normal family life" but then Devlin began displaying symptoms of depression and self-harming. They contacted the HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the HSE's social work department for help.

Devlin was first placed in the Ballydowd secure care centre for three months in 2006, in a bid to remove him from "negative influences in his life". However, he absconded.

In November 2006, the HSE became aware of the sexual abuse of Devlin by an outsider. Despite this, there was a five-week delay before his parents were informed.

In December 2006, Mrs Kavanagh sought an order from the High Court so that her son could be taken into care. Four days later, he was dead.

Irish Independent

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