A heroin-dealing charge brought against a 14-year-old boy were struck out today due to a delay in directions from the DPP.
The young boy had been charged at the Children’s Court with having heroin for sale or supply to another, in Ballyfermot, in Dublin, on March 18 and 19 last, when he was aged 13 years. The quantity of the drugs involved was not been stated in court.
He had been remanded on bail twice since his first court appearance in June, for two sets of directions from the DPP to be sought.
The first was for a direction as to whether the prosecution should proceed in light of the boy’s young age at the time of the alleged offence.
For the prosecution to go ahead, a second direction was needed regarding the seriousness of the allegations and whether the case should be retained in the jurisdiction of the Children’s Court or instead be sent to the Circuit Court, which can impose lengthier sentences.
The State today sought further time for directions to be obtained, saying that there had been a delay as a result of requiring further information relating to the case.
However, defence solicitor Mr Gareth Noble argued that the case should be struck out. He submitted to Judge Bryan Smyth that it was now four months since the teenager had been charged.
“I am at a loss to understand what progress has been made in the interim,” he said.
He submitted that in cases of juveniles, particularly those as young as the defendant, huge efforts should be made by the prosecution to expedite matters.
Judge Smyth said that he accepted that there were serious charges before the court but the DPP’s directions should have been available at this stage.
He struck out the charges releasing the boy, but said that it was still open to prosecution to recharge him.
The small west Dublin boy, who was wearing a tracksuit, remained silent during the proceedings in which he constantly shifted on his seat and looked around the courtroom. After the judge made his order the teen left with his mother and smiled as he was ushered out the courthouse doors.
In October 2006, the DPP had decided to drop a prosecution against the-then 12-year-old boy, who had been described in court at that time as having Aspergers Syndrome, a form of autism.
At that time, he had been facing a charge at the Children’s Court for trespassing at the Cherry Orchard Community Centre, in Ballyfermot, on May 8, 2006, when was aged 11.
During those proceedings, the court had heard that the boy’s lawyer had had difficulties in “vindicating his rights to a fair trial as there was an issue over his capacity to give legal instructions.”
When his lawyer had tried to take instructions from the boy in that case, he became distressed and hid by pulling his T-shirt over his head and would not communicate.
The court had also been told in 2006 that the boy had been showing signs of behavioural problems from an early age. Since he was aged 7 years he had been under the supervision of a psychiatrist and had been found to have attention deficit hyper-activity disorder and conduct disorders.
Later assessments found that he has Aspergers Syndrome, a mild form of autism, and efforts were made to have a social worker allocated to assist him.
Judicial review proceedings in the High Court had also been initiated to secure assistance for the boy.