Woman at centre of ‘horror story’ asks judge for support

Vulnerable 18-year-old was allegedly sexually abused by 12 males before she was aged 10

A young woman at the centre of a "horror story" of alleged sexual abuse by more than 12 males before she was taken into care aged 10 has told the president of the High Court she will need supports into the future.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said the vulnerable 18-year-old has told him in a letter she will need supports to help her into the future and to assist her in dealing with criminal proceedings brought against certain family members following her disclosures of alleged sexual abuse.

She had also said she wants more independence after several years in care and also wants to meet the judge.

Mr Justice Kelly said the court’s door “is open” and, if her treating team consider it is medically appropriate, she could attend court when her case is due for further review in October.


Noting the woman has also expressed a strong wish for a named care unit employee to remain involved with her care into the future, the judge strongly recommended her wish be given effect to if that was feasible, saying it was clear she has strong trust in that employee.

The woman was made a ward of court last year and the judge last week authorised Patricia Hickey, general solicitor for wards of court, to take legal action against the HSE and Child and Family Agency over their alleged "appalling" failures over years to protect her from alleged sexual abuse by more than 12 males before she was taken into care aged 10.

A "horror story" was described in an opinion by senior counsel Sara Moorhead setting out the grounds for a case to be brought, he noted.

The opinion described an “appalling failure of duty” on the part of State institutions to protect someone “most vulnerable”. It stated, despite an apparent view by professionals when the girl was aged two that she should be taken into care, the CFA advised a case conference it had no suitable placement for her.

The opinion also stated social workers were familiar with the girl’s family before she was born.

Although various parental and other supports were provided, the girl remained in the family home until she was ultimately taken into care aged 10. She later made disclosures, found to be credible, of alleged sexual abuse by more than 12 named individuals from her local area.

Disclosures were also made concerning alleged abuse of her younger brother by male relatives. Criminal proceedings are pending against her mother and maternal grandfather arising from the disclosures.

The girl was separately made a ward of court last year as she was about to turn 18.

On Monday, the judge was told of concerns about a recent escalation in self-harming behaviour by her and of measures aimed at reducing that. He was told her treating psychiatrist believes she must be moved as soon as possible from a psychiatric unit where she had been receiving treatment but which is not considered an appropriate long-term placement for her.

A plan had been put in place for her gradual transitioning to a residential care unit providing a range of therapies and the judge made orders to facilitate that transfer.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times