Subterfuge used to transfer high-risk teenager back to Ireland, court hears

Team of social workers had to ‘deceive boy into believing he was going on holidays’

A team of social workers had to deceive a high-risk teenage boy into believing he was going on holiday in order to safely transfer him to a new crisis service, the High Court has heard.

The teenager, who had been ejected from a specialist centre in the United Kingdom due to his escalating behaviour in recent weeks, was upset upon discovering he was being transferred to a new centre and not on a recreational visit to Ireland. However, the court heard he handled the situation maturely and the journey went better than feared.

His care team had been concerned that he would act out violently before or during the international transfer, which was the reason for keeping secret the motivation of the trip. Previously, the court heard he had made comments about “going out with a bang” if he was made to leave his placement, while he also had a history of assaults on staff and taking knives and weapons.

The President of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, had made orders last week authorising An Garda Síochana and the airport police to assist with the boy's transfer and to use reasonable force and restraint if necessary for safety purposes. Any force used should be minimal and for as short a period as possible, she had ruled. She also ordered a ban on publication of any details of the case until after the transfer had been completed.



David Leahy BL, for the Child and Family Agency, which had applied for the court orders, said on Friday that the transfer, conducted under "subterfuge", turned out to be "relatively non-eventful". For this reason, many of the court's orders had not been actioned, he said. He added that the team was impressed by the boy's "very mature" handling of "exceptionally difficult circumstances" surrounding his abrupt departure from his placement.

He is now in an emergency unit in this jurisdiction, but this can formally hold him for just 30 days. A more permanent placement must be found for him, but, for now, his “most pressing need is his wish to see his family”, said Mr Leahy.

Ms Justice Irvine said she was “really relieved” to hear the journey went smoother than anticipated. She was also impressed, she said, by the boy’s understanding that it had been necessary to deceive him in order to get him to Ireland. She noted that his primary concern upon hearing that he would not be returning to his UK placement was that he hadn’t been able to thank the staff at the unit.

Natalie McDonnell BL, for the court-appointed general solicitor, said the teenager ideally wants to return to his UK placement but failing that he would like to be near to his family. He is eager to be kept out of special care, she said.

Patricia Brazil BL said her client, the boy's mother, who was a notice party, was "very surprised and disappointed" that her son's placement had not worked out. It was pressing now that a new placement be found, said Ms Brazil.

Ms Justice Irvine made various orders including for the boy’s continuing placement at the emergency unit. The case will be reviewed later this month.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter