Teen 'institutionalised' by controversial care unit

A 15-year-old boy was left “institutionalised” and unfit for mainstream education after he was detained in a controversial children's care facility, a court heard today.

The boy was before the Children's Court where he pleaded guilty to possessing two stolen car radio sets, in Ballyfermot, in Dublin, on April 9 last year. Garda Ann Irwin told Judge Ann Ryan that the boy “refused to give comments on where he got the two radios.”

The boy had also pleaded guilty earlier to getting into a stolen vehicle, in west Dublin on May 2 last year and has also continued to come to garda attention, Judge Ryan heard.

The teen had been held previously by order of the High Court in the Ballydowd Special Care Unit, in Dublin.

The centre, where troubled children could be detained for their own welfare and safety, was opened in 2000, at a cost of €13m.

A damning report published by the Health Information and Quality Authority in 2009 had criticised the environment at the centre as no longer acceptable for the detention of children.

It also highlighted problems relating to management, staffing and the safety of children at the secure facility.

Defence solicitor Gareth Noble told Judge Ryan today that the boy was “the subject of a number of external reports on the suitability of Ballydowd as a place of detention”.

He said the period the boy spent there “left him scarred in relation to dealing with a number of issues”.

“He had become institutionalised in Ballydowd, was detained for long periods of time by himself, his interaction with others would have been limited.”

Mr Noble said that for that reason the boy was “unsuitable for mainstream education” when he left the care facility and returned to his parents.

The boy, who had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, found it extremely difficult to interact with other children in a mainstream school.

Home tuition had to be provided to him and he is now looking for a training course that would suit him. His father, who was present for the case, has also brought him to a psychologist, the court heard.

Judge Ryan sought an updated probation report and requested the HSE to attend the proceedings

The case was adjourned to a date later this month when it will meet up with other charges brought against the teen. They include allegations of trespassing and crashing two stolen cars.

The boy, who is on bail, also faces charges for assaulting HSE staff at the Ballydowd Special Care Unit, in 2009, which he denies.


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