Family case to proceed in private

“Disturbing evidence” about alleged sexual abuse and brutal treatment of two children under the age of 10 will continue to be read behind closed doors, the High Court heard yesterday.

Despite the fact that the evidence can be reported in accordance with a court order banning any identification of the parties and despite it being of public interest, it will in the main be kept secret.

All news media representatives were also warned that an application will be made to exclude them from court when two gardaí give evidence of alleged criminal sexual behaviour of the children’s parents.

Ms Justice Marie Baker was hearing legal submissions on whether or not the High Court wardship process was the appropriate legal step to be taken for the protection of the vulnerable children.

The Child and Family Agency (Tusla) wants to put the children back in the care of their parents, who allegedly sexually abused and brutalised them. Two foster parents who have been caring for the children for the past four years have gone to court to block the move.

When High Court President, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, on August 18 put a stay on the children being reunited with their parents he said the alleged sexual abuse and brutal treatment of the two children was the most disturbing evidence he had read in 20 years on the bench.

Tusla “inexplicably” withdrew an application to the district court for a care order relating to the children after a judge had listened to evidence and legal argument for 29 days. Tusla has been promoting the children’s reunification with their natural parents.

They have remained in the care of their foster parents for almost three months with overnight access to the natural parents. The court has been told Tusla carried out “an extraordinarily detailed risk assessment study” before supporting family reunification.

Reunification was blocked by Judge Kelly on August 18 when he decided to have another judge of the High Court fully hear and decide on the wards of court application that is proceeding today.

Judge Kelly said on the evidence he had read the children would be going back into a very detrimental situation and he had concerns that the parents had overnight access to the children.

He said the court had seen affidavits and reports alleging sexual abuse and cruelty of the children involving a family relative.

Judge Kelly had told Tusla that if any plan was going to be made to grant further overnight access between the children and their natural parents the court would want to be told about it first. He would have no objection to daytime access in a supervised situation.

The cases continues before Judge Baker today.


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