No conviction for teen who attacked youth worker at care facility

Children's Court Smithfield
Children's Court Smithfield

A JUDGE has been asked not to record a criminal conviction in the case of a teenage boy who admitted attacking a youth worker at a secure children's care facility in Dublin.

The teenager head butted and bit the staff member who had restrained him, the Dublin Children's Court heard.

The 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty to criminal damage and assault charges, which can carry possible custodial sentences, in connection with incidents at the Ballydowd Special Care Unit in Lucan.

The centre is a secure therapeutic care facility where troubled youths are detained for their own safety and welfare by order of the High Court.

Garda Tadhg Hartnett told Judge John O'Connor that during one incident the teenager caused €1,000 worth of damages to three doors at the centre on May 5 and during an incident in February the boy had to be restrained by a staff member.

The teenager had pulled down a smoke alarm and when he was restrained he head butted the care worker and then bit him on his index finger. He also took a pager from the staff member and threw it down a toilet.

Defence solicitor Gareth Noble said the boy, who did not address the court, accepts responsibility and following his arrest the 16-year-old made full admissions.

The lawyer asked the judge to note the context of the assault incident, that the boy, who has been held in the centre for the past six months, had been let out of a restraint.

Mr Noble argued that the teenager had reached the “very high threshold” required to be placed in special care and only a very small amount of young people fall into that category. He argued that it would be perverse if the criminal justice system convicted young people not in a position to be safely maintained with their families or in the community.

The defence lawyer asked the court to note the plea of guilty but to make no further order to avoid criminalising someone who has already lost their liberty by order of the High Court.

The teenager has expressed to his guardian ad litem concerns about the centre which have been taken up by the Child and Family Agency who are investigating a number of incidents at the facility, the judge was told.

Judge O'Connor said he has a lot of sympathy for what had been suggested by the defence but it was a question as to whether there was any authority. He said he wanted to hear replies from the DPP's office and adjourned the case for three weeks.

The youth also has other charges pending which pre-date him going into care.