Vulnerable woman taken from traveller camp in drugged state

Vulnerable woman taken from traveller camp in drugged state

A vulnerable intellectually disabled young woman whose mental age is about ten was removed by gardai in a filthy, distressed and apparently drugged state from a traveller camp several days after leaving a private care facility, the High Court has heard.

A young man said in evidence he had consensual sex with the woman, whom he knew from the past, had not raped or harmed her and is in love with her. He has a number of psychiatric conditions, he also said.

In line with court orders, he said he would not contact her in any way, wanted to tell her parents he was sorry and rejected her father's description of him as a "monster".

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said the woman underwent a "terrifying ordeal" and her parents endured a "nightmare". The facts of the case were “as shocking as they are extraordinary” and are now subject of a HSE investigation.

A HSE officer agreed the evidence was "alarming" and said she expected its investigation to conclude quickly.

The court heard the young woman, on her removal from the site last week, had torn leggings, no underwear, her clothes were filthy and she appeared to have faeces on the back of her shirt. Her speech was slurred and it seemed she had not taken her prescribed medication and other drugs or agents gave rise to her condition.

Aged in her twenties with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities, she was placed in the private facility some years ago because her disabilities meant she could not be cared for at home.

She left the premises on April 29th and returned there with the man on May 1st to collect her allowance when she was again permitted leave "without any alarm bells being rung", the judge said.

Her parents were abroad on business from April 29th and were contacted that day by the premises to say their daughter had left it but she was being monitored and they should not contact her as it was expected she would return. The parents' increasing concerns lead to them contacting gardai on May 3 when they returned home.

On May 9, the HSE indicated to an emergency sitting of the High Court it would seek to have her made a ward of court and secured orders permitting gardai remove her from the site and return her to the private facility.

Her parents expressed a range of concerns about the facility's handling of the situation and her father said they have no confidence in its ability to keep their daughter safe and do not want her to stay there.

Becoming upset, he said the last thing his daughter said to him before initially going there was: "Daddy, will I be ok?"

"I said, Yes, I promise you..How can she believe me again?”

There should have been procedures not to let a person with special needs to "just walk away", he said. His daughter has no filter for danger and will walk away with anyone who approaches her, he said.

Mr Justice Kelly, who noted the court is awaiting a report from the private facility about what happened, said the HSE evidence is the woman must remain there in the short term because no alternative is immediately available. He made orders aimed at ensuring she will be adequately supervised and safe pending various assessments.

A HSE official said efforts are continuing to find an alternative suitable placement in a different private facility but assessments must be carried out first.

Noting medical evidence the woman lacks capacity and should be made a ward of court, the judge will decide that later this month when he will be updated on the situation.

The woman’s parents are "decent people" who, having handed over custody of their daughter to a third party, understandably feel badly let down and were entitled to expect what happened would have caused alarm bells to ring, he said.

Noting evidence of "multiple breaches" of the court's orders restraining the young man contacting the woman or her parents, plus evidence money was sought from the parents, he warned there would be consequences if there were further breaches.

The woman remains very distressed and confused and believes in a childlike way she loves the man but is also afraid of him, her court-appointed guardian said. The woman had asked for return of a soft toy and other personal effects and hoped he would get treatment for various issues.

The man said he had given the soft toy to her mother, did not have the other effects and denied breaches of the court orders.

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