Irish Traveller girl held in care on British court order


THE HIGH Court in London has ordered the detention of a seriously disturbed 17-year-old Irish Traveller girl at a high-security care unit in Britain, following an application by the Health Service Executive, it has emerged.

The order was handed down in private by Mr Justice Baker on June 15th in the case of the girl, who is known only as “SF” and who has been in care in Ireland since she was three, following a hearing on May 4th.

The judge said the girl “has had many problems from an early age and has been diagnosed with an emotionally unstable personality disorder, severe depression with suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“In September 1998 she was received into the voluntary care of the authority then responsible for child protection in the part of Ireland where she lived and she has remained in care to this day,” the judge said.

“Soon after her admission to care, SF disclosed that she had been subjected to severe abuse of a physical, sexual and emotional nature and had also been neglected whilst in the care of her family,” he added.

An interim care order was made in April 2000 and a full care order six years later. “She was initially placed in foster care, where she remained until 2008 when the placement broke down due to her difficult behaviour.” She was then placed in a number of foster homes and residential services until March 2nd, 2010, when she was placed in a high support unit in Co Monaghan, where she remained until January this year.

The girl’s behaviour escalated and she absconded from the care home, returning under the influence of aerosols and other intoxicants. During such episodes she was aggressive to staff and other residents. She made a number of attempts to harm herself “ranging from superficial injuries to very serious wounds to her arms and legs and, on one occasion, tying a handbag strap around her neck in an attempt to choke herself”.

Staff in Monaghan decided they could not keep the girl safe and on January 5th the Health Service Executive applied for, and was granted, an order permitting SF to be detained at a special care unit.

Because of a lack of suitable treatment centres in Ireland, the HSE approached a centre in England, where the girl was examined in March. The girl “expressed very considerable opposition to any move” but by March said she wanted it to take place as quickly as possible.

There was a delay while the HSE obtained consents required under EU regulations for mentally disturbed citizens of one EU state to be held by the authorities of another for their own good.

“During that period, SF’s behaviours became the source of very considerable concern. In particular, she made repeated threats of, and several significant attempts at, self-harm,” the judge said.

The judge said he was satisfied there was “no cause to question the validity” of the order made by High Court in Dublin in April and that SF should be treated at the English centre “whether or not she continues to consent to remaining there”. He ordered regular contacts between the High Courts in Dublin and London about the girl’s case.