Tragic story of Kildare teenager in care heard in district court

"What more punishment could a court impose than has already befallen her?"

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Tragic story of Kildare teenager in care heard in district court

The case was heard at Naas District Court on Thursday.

The tragic story of a young woman’s experience at the hands of state agencies was heard at Naas District Court last Thursday, june 28.

The 17 year old, who cannot be named for because she is still a juvenile, appeared on a charge of assault.

Her father intervened in the court hearing to explain that his daughter had had a breakdown at the age of 12, and that he had reached out to Tusla for help.

The father explained that Tusla’s response was to put her into care.

She became pregnant while in care and her baby is now also in care. She has, Judge Desmond Zaidan pointed out, a “massive distrust of the state”.

Her father described her has “a most vulnerable child in society. Nobody listened to us,” he told the court.

Judge Zaidan said it was not the first time he had heard a story like this involving Tusla.

The assault charge arose because when a care order was lifted by a different court, she left her care, but an error occurred and six Gardai were sent around to the family home to bring her back to care.

“She lost the plot?” the judge asked.

“Yes,” said her barrister Aisling Murphy.

Her baby was taken from her into care after an unfortunate episode some weeks ago when she had gone to Dublin with her baby to visit a boyfriend, who she had met in care. The court heard that he had become violent and beat her up.

Ms Murphy explained that her client’s main focus now was on getting her child back.

Initially the Judge considered putting her under the supervision of the Probation Service, but Probation Officer Dermot Lavin explained that she is already under the supervision of the Probation Services arising from separate matters in other courts. He noted a difficulty in getting her to engage with the service. This did not surprise the judge who noted that she had a “massive distrust of the state”.

Mr Lavin said he did not believe “that a criminal justice solution was the solution here”.

“She was in state care, she got pregnant in state care, which is effectively statutory rape, and now her child is in state care,” the Judge remarked. “What more punishment could a court impose than has already befallen her?” he asked.

And he applied the Probation Act. “It doesn’t justify her behaviour, but given her vulnerability,” he said.