A 15-year-old boy who violently assaulted a former girlfriend during a “crisis period” in his life earlier had access to child mental health services interrupted by Covid lockdowns, a court has heard.
The young woman told the court she thought she was going to die on the day of the assault and the accused would never know the extent of the challenges she goes through daily since it occurred.
The Central Criminal Court heard she was falsely imprisoned and assaulted after the boy reacted jealously to a text message he saw on her phone. He allowed her to leave, in a distressed state with 32 bruises and abrasions, after she agreed to wear a facemask to cover bruises to her face.
There was a further altercation as the pair walked to the nearest town and the girl fled into a shop to seek assistance.
The now 17-year-old boy, who cannot be identified as he is a juvenile, pleaded guilty to assault, false imprisonment and theft of a phone from the young woman in June 2021. He has no previous convictions.
Mr Justice Paul Burns adjourned finalisation of sentencing for one week until October 9th.
The young woman told the court in her victim impact statement that since the assault, she has been under emotional, physical and mental strain. She described how she found it hard to trust people or let her guard down. She said the accused has shown no sign of remorse.
She said she had felt all the mental abuse she went through at the hands of the accused had been because she was a bad person but now realises she isn’t a bad person. She described how she went through hard times but never acted as the accused had done.
She said she has attended for therapy and hopes to move on and live a normal life.
The boy’s mother told defence counsel, Desmond Dockery SC, that there had been “a lot going on” at the time, including the boy having issues at school, moving to live with a relative, episodes of self-harm and suffering a bereavement.
They were referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) but this “never got off the ground” due to Covid.
She said things had improved while the boy was at home during the lockdowns and he also began an “intense” relationship with the young woman.
She said he was very upset when they broke up and he did not deal with it very well. She said there were arguments at home, with one incident involving the gardaí.
She said since the offences, he has had professional help and attended for an anger management course and she has seen a big change in him.
She agreed with Mr Dockery that her son, at 15-years old, had not been equipped to deal with the emotional rollercoaster and intensity of the relationship.
An investigating garda told Patrick Gageby SC, prosecuting, that the events had occurred in a shed about a kilometre outside the boy’s home town, where the girl had come to visit him.
The pair had previously been in a short relationship but had broken up some time previously. They remained in touch and met up occasionally.
On this day, they walked out of town to a disused farm and sat down for a time. The accused became jealous of a text he saw on her phone and refused to give it back to her.
This resulted in words from her including that he needed help of a psychiatric kind which seemed to lead to the accused losing control. The girl described being hit and falling to the ground where she was pushed or kicked. She tried to call out for help to a passer-by but was punched and slapped.
She eventually succeeded in calming the accused and persuading him to walk back to town, saying she would wear a facemask to conceal her bruises and swollen lip.
There was a further altercation near the town when the boy wanted to return to the shed but she managed to get away and ran into a shop where gardaí were alerted. She was brought to hospital.
Gardai spoke to the boy and retrieved the girl’s phone.
Mr Dockery told the court the boy had been ill-equipped to deal with the emotional intensity of the relationship and the disappointment of breaking up some months before this incident. He said his immaturity had led to possessiveness.
He said there had been intermittent bouts of contact after the breakup.
Counsel submitted the false imprisonment had lasted a relatively short time. He said he was “clearly a volatile young man at the time” and had an irrational response to the message on the phone.
He said the outburst had not been premeditated but had been spontaneous and frenzied in nature.
Mr Dockery said that when speaking to the probation officer, the boy accepted he lost control and violently assaulted the girl. He said the boy was shocked at the level and extent of his violence.
The court heard the probation officer said the boy’s insight into victim empathy needs further investigation. The probation report also said he needs to address his anger management and control issues in the context of intimate relationships.
Defence counsel said the boy had instructed his legal team to convey his sincere remorse and an apology. He said he takes full responsibility and is dealing with trying to develop full mature insight into the effects of his actions on the young woman.
Mr Dockery reminded the court that as the accused is a juvenile, detention should only be imposed a matter of last resort and due regard should be given to the child’s best interests, as well as the victim and the protection of society.
He asked the court to take into account the boy’s age, immaturity and his guilty pleas. He said there was no evidence of alcohol or drug issues. He submitted the court could dispose of the case without a detention order.