Friday 15 December 2017

'Trafficked' girl's picture to be released

Ken Foy, Crime Correspondent

GARDAI will today take the unprecedented step of releasing a picture of a child they suspect is a victim of human trafficking.

All efforts to identify the teenager have failed, leaving officers with no option but to make a media appeal.

The girl, aged between 14 and 16, was found wandering outside the GPO four weeks ago.

She does not speak clear English but has drawn pictures for officers and healthcare workers of being taken by men on an aeroplane and also being placed on a bed and lying with men.

Last week, the case went to the High Court as gardai attempted to obtain permission to release her photograph in order to try and identify her.

A lawyer for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan revealed in court last week that officers have exhausted all options to identify her, her family background or simply where she came from.

The High Court was told more than 80 lines of inquiry have been investigated by gardai to try and find out who the girl is.

Legislation

Genevieve Coonan, junior council for the Commissioner, said officers had used every avenue open to them without going public.

"The only option at this time is to release a photograph," she said.

Mr Justice George Birmingham indicated that we would allow the image to be shown to the public unless "circumstances change".

Detectives launched a major probe amid fears the girl was smuggled in to the country by traffickers. A legal guardian appointed by the courts launched a legal challenge against a decision by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to move the girl from the hospital to a non-secure care facility.

Legislation prohibits the identification of a child in care, but the rules can be relaxed by a judge.

Lawyers for the guardian, who want her placed in a secure unit, said any delay in identifying the child could damage her welfare and that releasing the photograph is in her best interest.

But Tim O'Leary, senior counsel for the HSE, said staff do not agree. "The social workers believe that at this stage it may have a disturbing effect on her," he said.

kfoy@herald.ie

Herald

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