The Brexit uncertainty is probably behind "unusual" delay by the UK authorities in clearing the way for the transfer of a vulnerable high-risk teenager in care here to a specialised unit in the UK, the president of the High Court has said.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly said the relevant authorities “are probably at sixes and sevens” due to lack of certainty over Brexit.
He made the comments after being told no response has been received so far to applications to the relevant UK authorities concerning the boy which were made by the Child and Family Agency in February and March.
EU law provides, in order to transfer a child in care, an application must be made under the Brussels 2 regulation to the authorities in the relevant jurisdiction. That application must be granted before an Irish court can order transfer and for the UK courts to make mirror orders for the boy’s detention there.
The boy has various disorders which the court was told cannot be addressed by a special care unit where he was placed more than a year ago because of high risk sexualised, violent and threatening behaviours.
On Tuesday, Timothy O’Leary SC, for the Child and Family Agency, applied to have him made a ward of court with a view to facilitating his transfer to a specialised UK unit. The boy’s condition has “waxed and waned” since his placement in the special care unit and extensive research had been undertaken to identify a more appropriate placement, counsel said.
The UK placement seemed “five star” and the best available. Fifteen service providers here had been written to on foot of 19 referrals but none could offer a place, the judge noted.
Mr O’Leary said it was not yet possible to formally apply to the court to order the boy’s transfer because the relevant UK authorities there have yet to consent to the application.
Counsel for the boy’s mother, who has been heavily involved with his care, said the mother believes he is doing well and would prefer to have him placed here but accepts there is no appropriate facility and the UK unit is suitable. The mother is concerned wardship may dilute her involvement and wanted to be on the committee representing his interests, counsel said. The boy’s father has disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown, the court heard.
Mary O’Toole SC, for the boy’s court-appointed guardian, said the proposed UK placement was the only one available but it was an “exceptionally good” one.
In his ruling, the judge said he was satisfied to take the boy into wardship once the special care order expires. The mother should not be concerned wardship will reduce her involvement as the court considers parental involvement is “pivotal” to the prospect of recovery and improvement and she will be consulted at every opportunity, he stressed.
He was appointing the general solicitor for wards of court as the committee to represent the boy’s interests because she has experience of dealing with the UK authorities concerning placements and is well placed to advance that, he said. He must also ensure the voice of the child is “independently communicated” to the court.
He stressed the general solicitor’s appointment was not any reflection on the mother or any dilution of her role. If the boy is transferred to the UK and later returned here, the judge said he remains open to appointing the mother as the committee instead of the general solicitor.