Ill boy (11) to remain in care over Christmas


A deeply disturbed 11-yearold boy, who is very ill with a rare cancer and has serious behavioural problems, is to remain in a special care unit over Christmas.

A High Court judge also decided yesterday that he cannot have overnight access to his family because it is not in the interests of his welfare.

Mr Justice Kelly criticised the South Western Area Health Board for failing to tell the court that an allegation of sexual impropriety by his stepfather towards the child had been made but the board had not carried out a detailed investigation. The board had supported the boy's overnight stay with his family but changed its view yesterday.

A security guard had alleged the stepfather had sexually molested the boy when he was receiving treatment for cancer at Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin. The stepfather denied the allegation. The court also heard the boy had behaved in a sexually inappropriate way towards his younger sister.

The boy's situation was addressed at recent late-night High Court sittings, with medical evidence given in camera. The SWAHB had applied for the child to be moved to a special care unit. His mother also applied to have him stay overnight at home over Christmas.

Yesterday, Mr Patrick MacEntee SC, for the board, said that in light of a number of matters it believed the boy should not go home for Christmas.

The hospital dealing with the child was not disposed to question him about certain issues until the child's medical condition had stabilised and certain matters could not be resolved as a result, counsel said.

The child's mother agreed the boy had been violent on occasions, set fire to the house when he was six and recently lit a match on a child's clothing.

Mr Justice Kelly said it was crucial to the boy's welfare that he was in a stable place from whence he could not abscond. It would also ensure that his medical condition was properly monitored.

In dispute was the home Christmas visit. The health board had applied for it, then withdrew that application. The judge said the board had not told him something it should have - the allegation of sexual impropriety against the stepfather, which it did not fully investigate.

The hospital had acted responsibly in drawing the court's attention to it, the judge said. He noted the allegation was not told to another High Court judge, who had allowed the stepfather and mother overnight access to the boy in the high-support unit.

He had other concerns, including evidence of a form of inappropriate sexual contact between the boy and his sister. The judge said he concluded it would not be in the child's welfare to go home for Christmas. The boy had been led to expect he could go home and would be deeply disappointed. But he had to bear in mind the allegations and the boy's life-threatening medical condition. The risks were too high.

But, he stressed, there should be generous access for the boy's family to visit him over Christmas in the special care unit.