Judge orders gardaí be given material on ‘traumatised, dangerous’ woman
18-year-old could be released into community as there is no legal basis to continue detention
The material includes a “very disturbing” note of a meeting this week at which the woman told her guardian and a Child and Family Agency officer she believes, if released, she will respond in a way that will drive her towards murdering her mother . Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins
The High Court president has directed the disclosure to gardaí of material concerning the “imminent” risk posed by a “highly traumatised and dangerous” 18-year-old woman who could be released into the community on Monday because there is no legal basis to continue her detention in a secure children’s facility and she has refused to move to an aftercare placement.
The material includes a “very disturbing” note of a meeting this week at which the woman told her guardian and a Child and Family Agency (CFA) officer she believes, if released, she will respond in a way that will drive her towards murdering her mother or perhaps some other vulnerable women, Ms Justice Mary Irvine noted.
The material also includes a summary of the views of four psychiatrists which added weight to the risks identified in relation to the woman, she said.
She was satisfied the material should be disclosed to gardaí and rejected arguments on behalf of the woman it should not.
Some of it is already in the public domain but gardaí should not have to get information from the media in order to protect human life and to take any steps they consider necessary concerning any bail application for the woman, she observed.
The woman, who has a personality and medical disorder, is currently on bail from the District Court in relation to assault charges. A condition of that bail is that she remains in the children’s unit but her detention there is on foot of High Court orders in wardship proceedings the CFA has now withdrawn.
The judge disagreed the material was confidential, noting it did not involve actual medical or psychiatric reports. If she was wrong about that, the right of life of the mother and other vulnerable women who may be at risk outweighed any right to confidentiality, she said.
Where the CFA, a State agency, has credible evidence that the woman poses an “imminent risk” to the life of her mother and other women, including contemporaneous evidence the woman has considered how she might actually perpetrate these crimes, that information must be released, the judge said.
Addressing arguments by John J. Fitzgerald SC, for the woman, that disclosure of the material might affect the woman’s rights against self-incrimination and a fair trial in any possible future criminal proceedings, the judge said any such issues could be addressed by a trial judge.
The CFA had initiated wardship proceedings for the woman last December as she was about to turn 18 and she has remained detained in the children’s unit pending an inquiry into whether she should be taken into wardship.
She had opposed wardship and, in light of recent psychiatric reports she has capacity to make decisions about her person and finances, with the effect she does not meet the criteria for wardship, the CFA confirmed on Monday it was withdrawing the wardship proceedings and it applied to have the detention orders lifted. It had arranged a bespoke onward placement for the woman but that was dependent on her voluntary participation, Barry O’Donnell SC, instructed by solicitor Conor Fottrell, for the CFA, said.
The woman’s position had fluctuated in recent days and Mr Fitzgerald told the judge on Friday she feared the possible consequences for her and others of her being released into the community and wanted to be in a secure place to protect herself and the community. He accepted his instructions have changed radically but what is abundantly clear is, if she is freed, a highly traumatised and dangerous 18-year-old will be released onto the streets, presenting significant risks to herself, her mother and others”, he said.
He would be seeking to argue, possibly in new proceedings, the court’s wardship jurisdiction could be expanded to include a person with a personality disorder.
He agreed the woman, who paid a brief visit to the onward placement this week, had said she did not wish to go there.
The judge expressed reservations whether an argument for an expanded wardship jurisdiction was stateable but said that was not before her on Friday.
When Mr Fitzgerald queried what steps the HSE has taken to address the situation as the woman became an adult last December, the judge said that was not a matter before her and note the CFA had approached between 36-38 care units about placing the woman without success.
Michael Lynn SC, for the woman’s mother, said she was neutral on the information disclosure application as she recognised there were issues of her own and the public’s safety as well as her daughter’s confidentiality. The court previously heard the mother recently moved out of her council home because of her daughter’s threats.
The case will return before the judge on Monday to deal with the CFA’s application to lift the detention orders. The CFA says the registration of the children’s unit with HIQA is in jeopardy while the woman remains there.