Tusla seeks orders to continue detention of ‘deeply vulnerable’ girl

Teenager who set out plan to kill someone in manuscript deemed ‘very serious risk’ to some

Tusla is seeking High Court orders which would permit the continued secure care detention, after she turns 18 shortly, of a "deeply vulnerable" girl regarded as a "very serious" risk to certain people.

The orders are being sought pending proceedings aimed at having the girl made an adult ward of court.

Barry O'Donnell SC, for Tusla, the child and family agency, obtained various orders from the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, on Friday, including permitting the agency to bring an application next week for temporary orders to continue the girl's secure detention beyond her 18th birthday and pending the outcome of the wardship proceedings.

Mr Justice Kelly also made orders for a medical visitor to carry out an assessment of the girl’s capacity.


The judge was told one psychiatric report had suggested her various disorders did not amount to loss of capacity and they suggested a fluctuating capacity while two other psychiatrists were strongly of the view she lacks capacity.

He appointed a guardian at litem to represent the girl’s interests in the wardship proceedings and was told the girl had also been represented by her own lawyers in childcare proceedings.

Mr O’Donnell told the judge, while Friday’s application was made ex parte, Tusla had put the other parties in the childcare proceedings on notice of it. Those parties, as well as the girl’s mother, were in court on Friday.

Mr O’Donnell said the agency’s position was that the orders being sought were in the best interests of the girl and also in the public interest.

Unsound mind

The medical evidence is that she is of unsound mind and lacks capacity to make decisions concerning her care, treatment and accommodation and it has also been determined she presents an “immediate and very serious risk” to certain people and to particular categories of people, he outlined.

There is a prior history of assault and sexual violence and there was an incident earlier this year which had led to the girl’s admission to special care, counsel said.

She had described her intentions and there was a search and a large knife was found, the court heard.

She had also set out in a manuscript a plan to kill and mutilate someone which, counsel said, was not treated as a “fantasy” but a “definite” threat.

The girl was “very up front and open” about these matters but, on the other hand, also talked about wanting to go to college and pursue a career, reflecting a form of deep-seated disordered thinking.

It was considered her disorders are such she would need to be placed in a specialist unit in the UK as the level of complexity presented by her case exceeds anything the services here have come across, he said.

Mr Justice Kelly noted the existing order for her detention under childcare legislation would expire when she turned 18 and there then would be no lawful authority to detain her under that legislation.

The wardship petition refers to disorders including a reactive attachment disorder and a sexual sadism disorder and it is in that context this application is being made, he said.

He returned to next week the application for orders permitting the girl’s continued detention beyond 18.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times