The alleged sexual abuse and brutal treatment of two children, both aged under 10, was “the most disturbing evidence I have read in 20 years on the bench,” High Court president, Mr Justice Peter Kelly stated.
He made the remarks yesterday during an application to have them made wards of court by a couple who had fostered them for four years and who want to stop them being reunited with their natural parents.
After a District Court hearing for a care order relating to the children collapsed after 29 days of evidence, the Child and Family Agency (CFA) has been promoting their reunification with their natural parents.
They have remained in the care of their foster parents with overnight access to the natural parents over the last two months and cannot be identified by order of the court.
Judge Kelly was told in the High Court that the CFA had carried out “an extraordinarily detailed risk assessment study” before supporting family reunification. The children were to have been reunited with their natural parents next Tuesday. He said that would not now take place as he was of the opinion the status quo should be maintained until another judge of the High Court had fully heard and decided on the wards of court application.
He adjourned the matter until September 8 and said it would be dealt with by the vacation duty judge of the day. He did not believe it would be in any way detrimental to the children not to rejoin their natural parents before that date.
Judge Kelly said the children, on the evidence he had read, would be going back into a situation that would be detrimental to them. He had concerns with regard to a suggestion that the natural parents have overnight access to the children. The judge said the court had seen affidavits and reports alleging sexual abuse and cruelty of the children involving a family relative. He was told that Mr Pol O’Murchu, solicitor for the foster parents, would be opposed to any overnight access by the natural parents to the children.
“The question of overnight access fills me with considerable concern and those concerns would want to be allayed very powerfully in order for overnight access to be allowed,” he said.
Judge Kelly said that in circumstances which he found to be very strange a District Court hearing that had lasted for 29 days had been told that the application regarding the children’s future had been withdrawn.
He said the District Court judge had not been given any opportunity to make an order regarding the welfare of the children. The District Court had been denied an opportunity of making any appropriate orders.
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