Disturbed teenage girl missing for fortnight

 

An extremely disturbed teenage girl has been missing from health board care for more than two weeks, the High Court has heard. There is concern that she may not be taking her medication and that she is in undesirable company.

Mr Justice Kearns was yesterday told the 17-year-old went missing about three weeks ago from a health board residential unit; she returned for two days but disappeared again. She has not been seen for two weeks.

The judge listed the case for Friday when he will consider whether to disclose the girl's identity with a view to locating her.

Last year, she spent 12 weeks in Mountjoy women's prison in the absence of any suitable place for her. She was later placed in an adult psychiatric hospital having been described as psychotic.

Lawyers for her went to the High Court last July with a view to having the Northern Area Health Board apply for an emergency care order. Just days previously, she was seen looking thin and dirty, with clothes covered in blood and urine. She was described as "extremely high risk" with a history of drug misuse and suspected prostitution. She has been in the voluntary care of the board for periods since July 2001. On July 17th last year, gardaí, concerned for her welfare, detained her in Kevin Street Garda station under the Child Care Act. On July 19th, lawyers asked the High Court to direct that the NAHB seek an emergency care order for her.

Counsel for the board said the only appropriate unit in the NAHB area is the Ballydowd Special Care Unit but, due to problems including staff recruitment, that unit, which was built to provide 24 places, is believed to have fewer than eight occupants. On July 19th, Mr Gerry Durcan SC, for the girl, secured an order directing gardaí to deliver her to the NAHB. The board later went to the District Court and secured an emergency care order for her.

On August 1st, in the absence of any alternative, Mr Justice Kearns directed that she be held in Mountjoy women's prison where she remained until she was removed to a psychiatric hospital. She was subsequently held under the Mental Treatment Act in a psychiatric hospital where she remained until about six weeks ago, when she was placed in the residential unit.