Judge urged to prevent gardaí interviewing boy (14) over alleged sexual contact with child

Court told teen has intellectual age of a four-year-old and emotional capacity of a toddler

A legal action has been taken aimed at preventing gardaí from interviewing a 14-year-old intellectually disabled boy in connection with an allegation he had sexual contact with a 12-year-old child.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

A legal action has been taken aimed at preventing gardaí from interviewing a 14-year-old intellectually disabled boy in connection with an allegation he had sexual contact with a 12-year-old child. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

A legal action has been taken aimed at preventing gardaí from interviewing a 14-year-old intellectually disabled boy in connection with an allegation he had sexual contact with a 12-year-old child.

An injunction restraining a planned interview of the boy on a date this week was granted by the High Court earlier this week pending further order.

The teenager is from a troubled family background and has been in State care since he was a baby. In addition to his intellectual disability, he has other disabilities and conditions, the court heard.

He has been assessed as having the intellectual age of a four-year-old, the emotional capacity of a toddler and he is being cared for in a specialised placement.

In an application for judicial review aimed at preventing him being interviewed, a social worker with the Child and Family Agency said he had grave concerns including that the teenager might incriminate himself.

His disabilities mean it would not be possible to get any comprehensive account from him of the alleged incident, the social worker said in an affidavit.

Limited understanding

He said the boy does not understand the difference between actual events and imagined events, has a limited understanding of language, is open to suggestion and prone to exaggeration. Other concerns included that the impact of being arrested and questioned would confuse and distress the boy, leading to a regression in his behaviour.

The harm that will be caused to the boy by the interview process will be “disproportionate” to any value that might be gleaned from the interview, the social worker said.

A consultant psychologist had reported it would be extremely detrimental to the boy’s welfare if he is interviewed and doing so could also risk his current placement, which would be difficult to replicate.

While concerns about the impact of interview had been raised with gardaí, it appeared that the intention was to proceed, the social worker said.

The High Court heard that the social worker and psychologist considered the boy would not be adequately protected by having the solicitor present at any such interview.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan said it was an “unfortunate” case with “unusual circumstances”. He granted leave to bring judicial review proceedings against the member in charge of the relevant garda station, Ireland and the Attorney General, aimed at preventing any interview, plus an injunction restraining a planned interview on a date this week.

The respondents have liberty to apply to lift or vary that order on 48 hours notice to the boy’s side and the matter has been returned to next month.