Judge assured concern over reports will be examined

A district judge who complained that reports from the Oberstown youth detention and education centre in Dublin are meaningless and unhelpful to the court was told yesterday that the emphasis was on providing therapy to the youths, but that his concern about reports would be examined.

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 it very unfair to me.

“My interest is primarily the community and keeping the community safe.”

The judge at Cork District Court said he had remanded a defendant in detention to Oberstown and wanted to get the benefit of the multi-disciplinary experts who would examine him there.

Judge O’Leary said the probation service in Cork had dealt with the matter very professionally as had a social worker but that he needed the benefit of the expertise in Oberstown.

However, he said he got nothing of that.

The reports complained of were in relation to cases of an accused facing serious drink-driving charges and another charged with serious offences, including robberies from young people.

Michelle Shannon, national director of the Irish Youth Justice Service, was in court yesterday to address the issues raised by Judge O’Leary. She said: “The policy is that you get a report that meets your needs.”

Judge O’Leary said he was aware of two meetings one of the accused had with a team of professionals dealing for instance with psychiatric issues and that he was told nothing of their views on the background to the defendant, his needs in terms of interventions and other issues.

He asked Ms Shannon if such a report not being sent to the court was in accordance with her policy.

She replied: “No, it is not, the policy is that we provide a service to the court.”

Dr Sinead Reynolds, national manager of ACTS who operate at Oberstown, was also present in court.

The judge said: “Your service is not delivering the service that Ms Shannon is expecting you to deliver (to the court). They (the reports) are meaningless, insubstantial reports. There is nothing of substance in the reports. How do you explain that?”

Dr Reynolds said: “Your idea is a little different to mine.” Her approach was a service promoting ongoing engagement and therapeutic work with the young people.

The judge said that in future he might have to rely on the probation service locally without recourse to Oberstown reports.


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