High Court hears HSE and Tusla may be sued over care of intellectually disabled siblings

High Court hears HSE and Tusla may be sued over care of intellectually disabled siblings

The HSE and/or Tusla may be sued on behalf of an intellectually disabled adult brother and sister who, despite concerns about possible neglect and sexual abuse at their mother's home, were returned there some weekends from residential care.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, granted permission today to pursue possible personal injury proceedings on behalf of the siblings, who were made wards of court last year.

He said there was a "long history" of concerns by professionals and neighbours about matters including poor hygiene, exposure to alcohol and pornographic material, a high number of visitors of "questionable character" to the home, and suspected sexual abuse.

The man had made complaints of genital pain while the woman had made comments and demonstrated behaviours which led to concerns about potential sexual abuse.

The siblings, now in their 40s, had not made any disclosure of sexual abuse and the concerns in that regard could not be verified for reasons including the siblings' poor communication skills.

It is not considered any such abuse was inflicted by their mother, also regarded as a vulnerable person.

There were long-standing concerns about the mother's ability to provide care for her children, including concerns dating from observations of their poor personal hygiene when in school, the court was told.

The sister has been in full-time residential care for more than 20 years while her brother, who availed of extensive voluntary respite care for many years, was taken into full-time voluntary residential care in 2011.

Both had continued to return some weekends to the home of their mother, where a male relative also resided.

Due to escalating concerns for their welfare, home visits were stopped in autumn 2018 and court protection for both siblings was sought, leading to their being made wards of court last year.

Today, Alan O'Connor BL, representing Patricia Hickey, general solicitor for wards of court, sought permission from Mr Justice Kelly, who manages the wards of court list, to pursue possible personal injury proceedings against the HSE and/or Tusla over the care of the two before being taken into wardship.

Having read the papers in the case, including psychologists' reports on both siblings, the judge said he would grant that permission.

He noted that senior counsel Sara Moorhead had, at the request of Ms Hickey, provided an opinion on whether to bring proceedings and had concluded, having reviewed the available records, there was a sufficient basis to do so.

Ms Moorhead considered there was, "at minimum", a potential case for neglect but further claims may be advanced on examination of all relevant records.

Additional records have been sought from the HSE and Tusla concerning the siblings, Mr O'Connor said.

If the records are not forthcoming, the general solicitor can bring an application to the court seeking relevant orders, the judge said.

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