Gardaí apply to court to publish photo of mystery girl

HSE is resisting the application because it believes this could have disturbing effect on her

Mr Justice George Birmingham adjourned his decision on whether to allow the image to be released until Monday.

Mr Justice George Birmingham adjourned his decision on whether to allow the image to be released until Monday.

Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 14:18

The Garda Commissioner has asked the High Court for permission to release to the media a photo of a teenage girl, found by them in a distressed state in Dublin, in an effort to identify her.

The HSE has resisted the application, arguing professionals working with her believe publishing her photo could have a disturbing effect on her while the girl’s court-appointed guardian supports publication.

The girl, believed to be in her mid-teens, has been in the care of the HSE for several weeks after being found in a distressed state by gardaí in Dublin.

At the High Court today, Genevieve Coonan BL, for the Garda Commissioner, said, following several weeks of investigating the matter, gardaí had “hit a brick wall” and “deadlock” in their efforts to identify the girl.

Despite intensive efforts, gardaí still don’t know who the girl is or where she comes from and they believe a criminal offence has been committed against her, counsel said.

As every possible avenue had been exhausted, the Garda Commissioner wanted the court to make an order under Section 31.2 of the 1991 Child Care Act 1991 allowing gardaí release a picture of the girl to the media, which could help identify her.

Felix McEnroy SC, for the girl’s guardian at litem, said his client believed taking action with a view to having the girl identified was in her best interests.

Tim O’Leary SC, for the HSE, opposed a photo of the girl being published on grounds that professionals working with the girl believed publication could have “a disturbing effect” on her.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said he was minded to grant the order allowing publication of a photo of the girl but was adjourning his decision to Monday.

The judge stressed he did not wish to “fudge” the matter but was adjourning it so as to give the girl an additional few days to “stabilise and get comfortable with those working with her” before her image was released.

He would change his mind about allowing publication if any new information suggesting publication was not in the girl’s best interests was put before the court, he added.

He ordered that nothing be reported that might identify the girl, who is undergoing treatment, or where she might be staying.

Yesterday, lawyers acting for the girl initiated High Court proceedings aimed at preventing the HSE placing her in a facility that is not secure.

The girl’s guardian argued that, given her needs, she required placement in a secure facility but the HSE was proposing to place her in a rural unit that was not secure.

Mr McEnroy said today there was substantial European case law to the effect that persons in situations similar to the girl should be given a secure care placement.

Mr O’Leary, for the HSE, said, as a result of the legal proceedings, the girl would not be moved from her current place.

The judge agreed to adjourn that matter for a week. He was also given a letter from the girl expressing her gratitude to the court in relation to dealing with her case.

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