Girl at risk of sexual exploitation ‘should be in secure unit’

A 16-year-old girl at high risk of being sexually exploited by men should be placed in a secure unit for troubled teenagers, the High Court has heard.

Girl at risk of sexual exploitation ‘should be in secure unit’

Mr Justice Bernard Barton was told that the girl’s father and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, were very concerned about her safety, given how frequently she has gone missing.

Judge Barton was told the girl had a history of drug and alcohol use and had been in the company of older men and had gotten into cars with men.

Both her father and carers had said the teenager had sometimes been in possession of large amounts of cash, the source of which she would not reveal.

Tusla had previously secured a temporary High Court order allowing it to place the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, in a secure unit for troubled girls under 18, at Ballydowd, in West Dublin. The order was secured on an ex parte basis. At Ballydowd, she will be given access to the care and counselling services she requires, the court was told in a sworn statement. Judge Barton said it was “absolutely in the interests of the teenager” that the order being sought be granted.

Barrister Sarah McKechnie, counsel for Tusla, said that the girl had been in the care of the agency and had been in several placements, since social workers first engaged with her some years ago.

Ms McKechnie said that the girl had a history of absconding, initially from her family home, and then from where she had been placed by the agency. Earlier this year, the teenager had gone missing for 17 nights in a month.

She had refused to fully engage with social workers or avail of counselling services.

Due to lack of engagement, it had been difficult to evaluate the girl’s mental or emotional condition.

“Her health and physical well-being has suffered,” Ms McKechnie said. “She has been taking drugs and alcohol and has needed medical treatment at a hospital. She has expressed suicidal intentions and there have been incidents of self-harm.”

Ms McKechnie told the court the girl was at risk of being assaulted and there were serious concerns about being vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Counsel said that the teenage girl had refused to avail of counselling services offered to her concerning sexual health matters. She added that the girl’s father supported the agency’s application.

Judge Barton adjourned the case until September.

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