Lawyer expresses concerns for community as troubled teen is set to be released
‘The Chief Justice said that if the teenager refused the placement and refused treatment, nothing could be done to force her into that situation.’ Stock photo: Getty
September 15 2020 02:30 AM
The immediate future of a deeply troubled teenager who has expressed a wish to rape and murder has been plunged into doubt.
The 18-year-old can no longer be held in a secure unit against her will and had agreed to go to a voluntary care centre for treatment, the High Court heard yesterday morning.
But by the afternoon, the situation had changed dramatically and the court heard she was now reluctant to take the placement.
Even if she does, a lawyer representing the teenager’s mother has expressed concerns for the safety of the community in which it is proposed she will live.
Her mother has left her home and moved to an undisclosed location on the advice of gardaí. The teenager has threatened to kill her and other women in the past.
She is currently being held in the secure unit under temporary High Court orders.
Those orders are due to be vacated after Tusla, the child and family agency, last week withdrew an application to have her made a ward of court.
Had the application been successful, it would have allowed for her continued detention, as well as treatment in a specialist facility abroad.
But the agency was forced to abandon the application after fresh reports from psychiatrists showed she no longer met the criteria. The case has highlighted major gaps in Irish mental health legislation.
Despite suffering from a personality disorder, this is not captured by the Mental Health Act and the teenager can no longer be detained against her will.
Barry O’Donnell SC, for Tusla, outlined how a voluntary placement had been arranged which would involve the teenager being supervised by seven male staff.
The location of the placement cannot be identified.
The teenager’s counsel, John Fitzgerald SC, said yesterday morning that his client was willing to co-operate with the placement. But over lunch he received new instructions that his client had concerns about the adequacy of the placement to address childhood trauma she was being treated for.
Chief Justice Mary Irvine adjourned the matter until today to allow Mr Fitzgerald take further instructions.
Earlier, Michael Lynn SC, counsel for the girl’s mother, expressed concern that a risk assessment and safety plan had not been completed for the proposed placement.
He questioned whether the court could opt to keep the detention order in place and asked what measures were being taken to protect people living in the vicinity of the proposed placement.
“What is the safety plan? What about the people who live in that locality? Have people been warned about what is happening?” he asked.
Ms Justice Irvine said preventative detention did not exist in Ireland and that she would have to lift the orders as the underlying proceedings were being withdrawn.
“While you are saying there is no safety plan in place, the reality of the situation is the respondent will either choose to act in a responsible fashion or won’t. That is the terrible position we are in,” she said.
The Chief Justice said that if the teenager refused the placement and refused treatment, nothing could be done to force her into that situation.