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Ireland Troubled teen now facing charges of sex assault and threats to kill

08:50  23 january  2020
08:50  23 january  2020 Source:   independent.ie

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A troubled teenager at the centre of wardship proceedings has been charged with sexually assaulting two women and threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a third.

The 18-year-old, considered a very high risk of harm to herself and to others, is currently being detained in a unit usually reserved for children, on foot of High Court orders.

She appeared in a District Court last Friday charged with the offences, alleged to have occurred on separate dates in May and June last year at a different secure unit.

The charges are likely to further complicate efforts to resolve her immediate future, which has been the subject of several High Court hearings in recent months.

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If she is declared a ward of court, authorities hope she can be detained at a specialist mental health service in England. But it was revealed in court this week a planned assessment of her suitability for treatment at St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton had not taken place as the psychiatrist involved had difficulty getting the required permission from the Medical Council.

The High Court heard that even if she is deemed suitable, it could be six months before a bed becomes available.

As a result of this, other alternatives are being explored.

The teenager's case has shone the spotlight on a number of significant issues facing child and family agency Tusla and the HSE in maintaining care for troubled teens after they become adults.

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In has also highlighted the lack of suitable facilities in Ireland, which means teenagers with particular issues have to be sent abroad at considerable expense, with concerns over such arrangements post-Brexit, and significant problems posed by gaps in mental health laws.

The teenager was born into a household of extreme depravity and domestic violence and has been in care from an early age. Medical professionals consider her a very high risk of harm to herself and others.

She has previously expressed a wish to murder and rape.

The High Court has heard a search at her care unit uncovered a large knife she secreted and that she had formulated a plan to mutilate someone.

At a hearing in December, Tusla's counsel Barry O'Donnell SC said: "Frankly, the court can see in the papers the level of difficulty exceeds anything the Irish care system has had to deal with in the past."

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The teen's case came to public attention last November when the Irish Independent revealed Tusla was in a race against time to prevent her from being released into the community.

At the time, she was held by Tusla under a High Court-imposed special care order, which allows for the detention of children in a secure therapeutic environment for their own safety and welfare. But with just weeks to go to her 18th birthday, authorities had no legal mechanism under which to extend her detention once she became an adult.

Although she had been diagnosed with a personality disorder, this did not mean she could be held under the Mental Health Act. A report by English psychiatrist Dr Peter Misch also concluded she had capacity to function and make decisions independently, an opinion which ruled out the prospect of her being detained as a ward of court.

However, the picture changed last month following two further psychiatric assessments, by Professor Harry Kennedy and Dr Aoife Kearney, which concluded she was "other than of sound mind".

This opened the door for Tusla to initiate wardship proceedings and to secure temporary orders allowing for her continued detention at the special care unit beyond her 18th birthday.

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A Torrington man is under arrest after police say he sexually assaulted and then harassed an ex-girlfriend. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.

Simple assault , usually charged as a misdemeanor, is the least serious form of assault . It involves minor injury or a limited threat of violence. that the defendant appeared to have the ability to carry out the threat and/or took some sort of action that seemed to set an attack in motion, and.

The detention order was extended by High Court President Peter Kelly on Monday for a further three weeks.

The judge said this was in the teenager's best interests.

It is unclear at this stage if she is going to object to the wardship application.

The teenager is legally represented in the proceedings and her solicitor has contacted another psychiatrist, Professor Patricia Casey, to conduct an independent assessment.

At the hearing, Mr Justice Kelly requested clarity from the HSE on the position of Irish wards of court currently placed in the UK following Brexit on January 31.

He said it would be disastrous if these people were to be discharged on February 1.

Mr O'Donnell told the judge the view being expressed to the HSE "at a high level" was that there would be mechanisms in place. This could involve applications having to be made to the Court of Protection of England and Wales for Irish orders to be recognised.

The matter comes back before the court next month.

A recent report by the Child Care Law Reporting Project detailed how wardship is being used as a response to gaps in Irish mental health legislation. It noted certain mental health illnesses, including personality disorder and anorexia, did not fall within the definition of a mental health disorder in Ireland.

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As a result, these illnesses cannot result in a person's involuntary detention in a mental health facility.

The law is different in the UK where a person with a personality disorder can be involuntarily detained and treated. This means a violent child with an emerging personality disorder, who poses a risk to society, is not captured by the Irish Mental Health Act, but does fall within the definition to be detained and treated in the UK.

According to the report, the response to this gap in Irish legislation had been to make Irish people suffering from a mental health illness which falls outside the Act a ward of court to permit a placement in a mental health facility abroad.

While the person remains under the jurisdiction of the Irish courts, their care and mental health treatment is subject to the law of the country they are placed in.

The report said this has proven problematic due to differences between Ireland and other jurisdictions in relation to the legal definition of mental illness, eligibility for involuntary detention, treatment programmes and discharge arrangements.

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