Gardaí investigate 12-year-old’s abortion in Britain

DNA from the foetus is being examined to confirm the father was a 15-year-old boy

The case of the 12-year-old has been notified to the Child and Family Agency, Tusla. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The case of the 12-year-old has been notified to the Child and Family Agency, Tusla. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The circumstances that led to an 12-year-old girl getting an abortion in Britain in the past year are being investigated by the gardaí.

It is understood that DNA from the foetus is being examined to confirm the father was a 15-year-old boy.

The authorities were notified by the clinic concerned because of the age of the girl. Gardaí are now working to rule out the possibility that an adult was involved in the girl becoming pregnant, sources have confirmed.

However, it is expected a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The age of consent in Ireland is 17 years and the age of criminal responsibility in cases of rape is 10.

A person found guilty of having sex with a 12-year-old is guilty of an offence that carries a sentence upon conviction of up to life, according to Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

A defence of being “reasonably mistaken” in believing the person was 15 years old would, if successful, reduce the sentence upon conviction to one of up to seven years. Consent is not a defence.

The case of the 12-year-old has been notified to the Child and Family Agency, Tusla. A spokeswoman for the Garda Press Office said it had no comment to make.

‘Deeply saddening’

Sinead Redmond of Parents for Choice, which is campaigning for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, said although it did not know the details, it was “deeply saddening that such a vulnerable person could not get the care she deserved at home, and that a young person’s private crisis is front page news”.

Details of the case were published in the Sunday Times and have since been confirmed.

“We must remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution to ensure that vulnerable children and families in such difficult situations can be cared for here at home,” Ms Redmond said.

Tusla said it does not comment on individual cases to ensure the privacy and protection of the children and the families involved.

It has a statutory responsibility to respond to all concerns about children reported to it. In cases where a referral is received relating to an underage pregnancy, Tusla’s role is to assess and intervene where there are any concerns about the child’s safety or welfare, including whether the pregnancy is a result of child abuse.

Underage pregnancy

Any sexual relationship where one or both parties are under the age of 17 is illegal, a spokeswoman said.

However, under Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children such cases may not necessarily be regarded as child sexual abuse.

If it is suspected or alleged that the child has been abused, Tusla takes immediate protective action to keep the child safe and notifies An Garda Síochána of the suspected abuse.

“Tusla intervenes in a collaborative way with the family, the child and other relevant persons to ensure the child is protected from any future harm.”

In cases where a referral is received relating to an underage pregnancy and abuse is not suspected, Tusla works with everyone naturally connected to the child to ensure they and their family have the necessary support in place, the agency said.