GARDAI have serious concerns for the welfare of a 13-year-old Dublin boy who is suspected of being in debt to drug dealers and exploited to commit crime, a judge has heard.
"This child has the potential to be found dead," Sergeant Seamus Treacy, a Garda juvenile liaison officer, told the Dublin Children's Court yesterday during the boy's case.
However, when it came to the issue of whether the boy could be detained, Judge Colin Daly conceded that this was impossible at this stage.
"My hands are tied," he said after hearing that juvenile detention centres for the boy's age group are still full.
The troubled boy was granted bail with the judge making a direction to the HSE to urgently conduct a welfare assessment of the teen's risk-taking behaviours and he sought a report on what social services plan to do to "adequately and appropriately deal with those risks".
On Thursday of last week, the boy had been brought before the city's juvenile court charged with being a passenger in a stolen car at 5am that morning, while he was in the company of a group of older youths.
He got bail with a curfew and residency condition and after leaving the court he was arrested a few hours later for stealing €100 worth of tools, leading to him making another court appearance yesterday.
The youngster wept and held his mother's hand as gardai objected to bail citing his alleged continued offending, as well as the belief that when found he was drunk and possibly under the influence of other substances.
His condition on Thursday night was described by Garda Sgt Treacy yesterday as like being in a coma and the officer said that at times the boy was unable to hold his head up when he was found.
The sergeant also said that it was believed the teenager had a drugs debt and criminals were calling to the homes of his relatives. Defence solicitor John Quinn said that the court could not make a detention order when there are no places.
This has become a regular problem at the juvenile court in recent months. There are 36 operational beds to hold boys aged under 17, at two facilities in north Dublin, Oberstown Boys Centre and Trinity House detention school, which are capacity-filled most days.
Judge Daly then said "my hands are tied" and adjourned the case until next week. The boy was remanded on bail.