Judge accuses teen detention centre of incompetence

The judge who accused Oberstown detention and education centre for troubled teenagers of incompetence yesterday said its failure to provide detailed reports on juvenile offenders to courts was unfair to the communities who had to live with the youths.

Judge Con O’Leary said: “ACTS [Assessment Consultation Therapy Service] gave a report to Oberstown but you will not pass that on to me. It is very unsatisfactory, very unfair to the defendant, very unfair to the community who have to live with him and very unfair to me. My interest is primarily the community and keeping the community safe.”

The judge wanted the person who wrote the report for the court to be present in court yesterday but instead a representative of ACTS therapy service, Trevor Brady, was present and he was not in a position to answer the judge’s questions because he did not have direct involvement in the case.

Damien Hernon, deputy director of Oberstown, then got into the witness box at the juvenile court.

The judge said he regarded it as dishonest for the Oberstown report to Cork District Court to state that the juvenile did not present with behavioural problems from the point of view of management when there clearly had been a serious incident where the teenager had to be controlled to the extent that he ended up getting a black eye.

Mr Hernon said: “There was no intention to mislead the court.” The judge said: “Tell me why I got a report saying there were no behavioural issues when there was an extremely serious incident where he was dismissive and threatening to staff.”

Mr Hernon said that the accused did not present as a management problem in the centre and he said there was a reference to some kind of incident on page 3 of the report, namely, “he was remanded to (a particular) unit, he was more resistant to restructuring and hesitant when given direction.” Judge O’Leary said: “What world are those people living in?” The judge said the incident was so physical the defendant himself ended up with a black eye.

Mr Hernon said about the information on the incident contained in the report: “It could, and probably should, include some more.” Judge O’Leary said after all of the experts seeing the defendant none of their findings was included in the report. “I understand Oberstown is having difficulties in the recent past, now I understand why. There is huge uncertainty and incompetence… There is no clear decision conveyed to me on what is happening with the child.”

He further adjourned the case for a fortnight with the accused in custody.


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