A teenage girl who created havoc in Temple Bar by mugging a street performer and accosting innocent bystanders, has been detained for three months, on her 50th conviction.
The Dublin Children’s Court heard that the teenage girl (aged 17) and her gang of friends had run wild in Temple Bar. Her conduct was described by one eyewitness as "disgusting".
The court also heard that the girl has had psychological and psychiatric problems, which have been neglected over the year by State agencies.
Her father said that he had struggled to control his daughter and that the health board had failed to provide her with a social worker when she needed one most.
Garda William O’Dwyer, of Pearse Street Garda Station, had told Judge Geoffrey Browne that he responded to a report of massive public order disturbance at the Central Bank Plaza.
He found the girl at the centre of the fracas and observed her and her friends intimidating passers-by. Garda O’Dwyer said he was approached by a number of people who complained about the girl's intimidating behaviour.
Garda Dwyer said the girl was extremely drunk and told him to "f**k off". The girl and her friends were then arrested under the public order act for being drunk and disorderly and for a breach of the peace.
Two witnesses then came forward and offered to testify against the girl.
One of the witnesses said in court that he first saw the girl as he was making his way through Crown Alley. He and a friend had stopped to watch street performer’s act.
"This girl was robbing him of his money," a witness said.
"He kept asking her ‘why are you taking my money?’ and she squared up to him and said ‘because I can’," the witness also said.
"The man was doing nothing, and she and four others set on him like a pack of dogs. It was disgusting to watch."
Judge Browne was told that one of the girl’s friends started to expose himself and the gang then proceeded through Temple Bar accosting and intimidating others by throwing bottles, jumping on taxis and attempting to steal from passers-by. "It was harassment for no reason," a witness said.
The second witness, a taxi driver, described the scene at Dame St saying that he saw frightened members of the public trying to get out the girl and her gang's way. He also saw the girl throwing bottles and threatening people.
The girl, from west Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the charges for being drunk and disorderly and in breach of the peace, under the Public Order Act, at Dame Street on May 21 last.
However Judge Browne said he was satisfied with the prosecution evidence and convicted the teenager. He praised the two witnesses for coming forward and for giving their evidence.
In mitigation the court heard that the troubled girl already had 48 previous convictions on her criminal record, mostly for assaults and public order violations.
Mr Dermot O’Connell BL, defending, told Judge Browne how the girl’s behaviour had worsened throughout her teenage years. He said the girl’s mother had left the family home when she was 13-years-old, forcing her father to give up his job of 20 years to raise his family.
He said that the girl’s offending pattern involved her having too much to drink which had resulted in her getting arrested for assault and theft offences.
Mr O’Connell also submitted volumes of psychiatric and psychological reports on the girl for the judge’s inspection.
Before the girl had first come to the gardai’s notice, the family had gone through the Family Court system, following her parent’s break-up, he explained.
As a result, a social worker was assigned to deal with the girl and her family. However, she left her job in early 2003 and there has been no replacement since.
"Her father feels that the State has not helped him raise his children who have special requirements," Mr O’Connell also told the court.
Pleading for leniency, Mr O’Connell also said that the girl's mother now plans to buy a home outside Dublin and intends to bring the girl and her other younger children to live with her.
The girl’s father addressed the court saying that she has needed help since her early teens but none was available. He told how he had worked all his life "like my father before me" until his marriage broke up and he was forced to leave his job to care for his troubled children on his own.
"My kids came to the notice of the health board when she was 13. Recommendations have been made by judges and nothing has been done, the health board has a lot to answer for," he said.
The court was also told that in other court cases involving the girl, judges had directed the health board to explain why no social worker had been appointed to the girl.
However, the health board responded by saying that they did not have to come to court to explain what efforts they have made despite the judge’s direction.
After noting the difficulties the father has gone through in recent years Judge Browne said: "Maybe the father has been let down by the health board but I have no choice but to give the maximum three month sentence."
The girl was then detained for three months in Mountjoy Prison.