'Emergency care' ordered for Romanian girl living without legal guardian

A Judge has said gardaí may have to make an “emergency care order” for a 13-year-old Romanian girl living in Dublin with a man who maintains he is her uncle and guardian but has no official documentation to back-up his claims.

This allows gardaí to intervene when there are grounds for believing there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child. It says the Garda may, without warrant, enter, with force if needed, “any house and remove the child to safety.”

The girl, who has been in Ireland without her parents for about a month, is facing three charges for attempted thefts in Dublin city centre over recent weeks.

Judge Patrick McMahon heard at the Dublin Children’s Court today that: the girl had been living with a man who claimed to be her uncle and guardian; her parents were still in Romania; she came her on a “holiday” for an “indefinite” period and had no passport.

Garda Alan Bradley, who arrested the girl, said concerns had been raised over the identity of the man, who is aged about 30 years, and claims to be her uncle and guardian.

He said this man did not have a passport and only had photocopied identity cards.

Romanian authorities have been contacted and have informed him that if a non-parent was to bring a child out of the country they had to be in possession of a “certificate of power of attorney.”

Garda Bradley further explained that this document was to be produced on leaving Romanian jurisdiction and had to be retained by the person accompanying the child when they arrived at the destination country.

However, Garda Bradley added that the man, who was present in court today along with the girl’s sister who is in her late teens, did not have such documentation.

Solicitor for the Health Service Executive Ms Gina Cleary told Judge McMahon that it could carry out an assessment to establish whether there were child welfare concerns in relation to the girl.

Judge McMahon said that the court did not have the power to order a placement for the girl. “The reality is that if I had a facility to keep this young child out of harms way I would put her in it, but I don’t.”

In response to defence counsel submissions that the man had been able to produce identity details, Judge McMahon said these were photocopies and “that means nothing.”

He said that the gardaí may have to make an application under Section 12 of the Childcare Act, for an emergency care order.

The girl, who has a north inner city Dublin address, was remanded on bail to appear again in four weeks. Her bail conditions state she must stay out of the Dublin 1 and Dublin 2 areas and obey a curfew to be indoors between 7pm and 7am.

The judge also said he would not grant legal aid until such a time as the man claiming to be the girl’s uncle produced “original documentation.” He also said that he was familiar with the girl’s address saying it seems it has been used by numerous other people coming before the courts.

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