State failure to house teen ‘unforgivable’

A judge has said it is “unforgivable” that the State cannot provide a placement to a child in care.

Judge John O’Connor heard at the Dublin Children’s Court yesterday that gardaí had no objection to bail being granted to a boy aged 15 who was accused of stealing €4,500 during a burglary in Dublin.

The teenager has been in voluntary care since last year and has already been placed in a number of children’s homes. However, he had spent the past four weeks in a juvenile detention facility after breaching bail terms set down earlier by the Children’s Court, where he is also facing criminal proceedings.

He had been held at the Oberstown youth detention centre, the same facility where trouble broke out earlier this week among detainees and a fire was started, causing extensive damage.

When the case resumed yesterday, Judge O’Connor heard that gardaí were consenting to the teenager’s release on bail with conditions. However, the judge was told that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, did not have a place for him to live.

The boy, who did not address the court, was accompanied by his mother, social worker, and barrister.

A solicitor for Tusla told the court the boy has complex needs and requires stability. The teen did well while on remand in Oberstown and going home is not in his best interests. His mother is worried about him, the court heard. Some of his problems relate to his peers and he needs to refrain from drug-taking, but he has emotional and language issues, the judge was told.

Within the care system “there is nowhere for him to go today”. A community service which helps troubled youths would be able to include him in diversionary projects, but this does not include accommodation.

Defence counsel Anna Bazarchina said the teen’s mother was willing to take him and there was no objection to bail.

Counsel said the court is aware of what happened at Oberstown earlier this week and the teenager has been traumatised.

Judge O’Connor was furnished with welfare reports on the boy and said the youth has “huge needs” including clinical and therapeutic intervention.

He said it is unforgivable that the State did not have a suitable place for a child in care and he was not going to allow the criminal justice system to act as a substitute.

He added that Irish and international law would not allow it to happen and he was not going to put the youth into detention because “the State cannot come up to the mark”.

The teen’s social worker said the boy went into voluntary care last year. He ran away from care in July and August. The court heard the teen has a pro-criminal peer group. She also said that, at present, there is no emergency placement for him. An application is being prepared to have him placed in special care. His mother loves him and all her children but struggles to manage, the social worker explained.

Judge O’Connor granted bail with conditions that the boy must reside for the time being with his mother, obey a 9pm to 7am curfew, and co-operate with welfare agencies. The case was adjourned for two weeks.

The boy has not yet entered a plea to his charge. The court heard it is alleged he broke into a shop in Swords and took money. He returned a short while after to take more cash, it is alleged, making off with €4,500 and being arrested after gardaí obtained CCTV footage. The court heard he made “certain admissions” to gardaí.


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