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Disturbed Boy (14) Found Dead 4 days After Detention Ordered for his Safety
Irish Times, Thu, Jul 19, 2007 by Mary Carolan

A very disturbed 14-year-old boy was found dead, having apparently taken his own life, some four days after the High Court had made an order that he be immediately placed in secure residential care on grounds that he was considered to be seriously at risk, it emerged yesterday.

The High Court made an order on Friday, December 1st, 2006, for the immediate detention of the boy, who may be identified only as D, in Ballydowd secure care unit.

Efforts by gardaí to implement that order were unsuccessful and D's body was found in front of a row of cottages, some miles from his family home, on the morning of Tuesday, December 5th, 2006.

It is believed D, an apparent victim of sexual abuse with deep-rooted psychological problems, hung himself but an inquest has yet to be held.

Once the detention order was made, a critical issue arose about how and when D should be informed of that order, Mr Justice John McMenamin said.

It was also "fundamental" that the order was implemented urgently and in a way which minimised the risk to D. "Tragically, this did not occur, owing to not one but a series of events."

The boy's mother and stepfather asked the High Court to conduct an inquiry into the events which occurred after the detention order was made.

They expressed the hope that the inquiry would reduce the risk that such tragic events could occur again.

Mr Justice McMenamin carried out the inquiry in private but delivered his judgment yesterday in public.

He stressed that D's mother and stepfather had taken every step they could to protect his welfare, had acted responsibly, were devastated by D's death and had showed him all the love and affection that parents could.

He said the intention of the inquiry was to ensure the procedure for the implementation of detention orders of young persons at risk "works in the most effective way for the protection of these young persons".

Outlining a "narrative" of events which he accepted might be disputed, the judge said the HSE had sought an order on December 1st, 2006, for the detention and care of D, whose parents had separated and whose mother was in a stable relationship with another man.

In the two years prior to December 2006, D had engaged in extremely challenging behaviour. His mother and stepfather could not manage him, he left home without permission, slept rough, abused drink and hashish, stole his stepfather's car and crashed it and frequently put his own life at risk.

Social workers also learned that a woman in her thirties had apparently had an abusive relationship with D when he was 14.

That woman did not testify and no finding should be made on this issue by the court, the judge said.

Efforts by gardaí to implement the detention order and locate D over the days December 1-5 were unsuccessful, the court heard.