Friday 6 December 2019

'This kind of case comes up every single week' - Author of report on teenager deemed 'too dangerous' for care

The High Court
The High Court

Sean Nolan

The author of a report on child care cases has said that a hearing to find a place for a teenager who was deemed to be a potential danger to others is the kind of case "that comes up every single week" in the High Court.

The details of the case were published today in the latest edition of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, a study led by Dr Carol Coulter.

The case, one of 16 in the study, came before the High Court last year where they ruled that the boy should be refused admittance to secure detention in Ireland as his behaviour was thought to be "too serious".

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Dr Coulter said: "This is the kind of case that comes up every single week in the High Court because the High Court is where cases where it's necessary to detain a child for their own protection, or perhaps for the protection of other people, that's where those cases go of course, it is interfering with a person's right to liberty and they haven't committed an offence, normally they're children in need of protection.

"We don't have very highly specialised units for children with severely disturbed behaviour in this country," Dr Coulter said. "Sometimes they go abroad, in fact our reports do show one case a child came back from a centre abroad and where they were doing extremely well where they were deemed to be suicidal and psychotic before they went."

The report details how in the case of the teenage boy an attempt by Tusla to find a secure unit in the UK also failed, with the report saying that they were under the false impression that the teenager had failed to reach the agreed threshold in Ireland for such a placement.

In January, March and June of 2017 a child psychologist found the boy needed a secure therapeutic residential placement.

The High Court judge described the situation as an "incredibly serious matter" and "urgent" as the boy remained in a non-secure unit with no therapeutic care.

A bid to place the boy in a 'holding placement' in a secure unit was rejected due to the risks involved and it was ruled that the teenager needed immediate psychiatric and psychological care before he could be placed in a UK unit.

At a further hearing in the High Court in December heard that the teenager was not respecting the curfew at the open residential unit and was still using drugs.

This hearing also heard that three units in the UK were now deemed to be unsuitable and a unit in the US was now being considered.

A week later a court heard that a new Tusla unit created for children with harmful behaviours was also deemed unsuitable and a solution outside the State was still being explored.

“The placement he’s in is a temporary placement, a put-together placement,” the report quotes the judge as saying. “It’s been described as a holding placement. There is no therapeutic input, he is not going to CAMHS, the proposed solution in the UK hasn’t come much closer and this State and the combination of states would appear not to be in a position to meet his needs."

However, a hearing in late January heard that no further progress on finding a suitable unit had been made and the teenager remained in a non-secure unit with no therapeutic report.

Dr Coulter added: "It is very difficult for these places to be found. The High Court judges themselves are expressing their frustration. I think what it demonstrates is the lack of psychiatric and psychological facilities for children who present early with possible mental health problems. Very often years and years are spent trying to get the appropriate services for children demonstrating mental health problems."

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