Teen who broke out of Oberstown wants credit for highlighting security problems

CourtsBy Tom Tuite

A 16-YEAR-OLD boy has admitted being the ring-leader of two break-outs from a Dublin detention centre which led to massive searches, security reviews and a community put in fear.

The boy, who cannot be named because he is a juvenile, is one of four youths who brazenly absconded from the Oberstown juvenile detention facility in Lusk in north Co. Dublin in July.

He and another teenager also broke out from the 48-bed facility in May. 

The escapes led to massive search operations, staff being suspended and a security review at the facility –  the State's main detention for offenders aged under 17.

The boy, who has 38 prior criminal convictions, pleaded guilty at the Dublin Children's Court to charges for absconding from custody and had sentencing adjourned until January. 

In a “cheeky” point raised by his lawyer the court was asked to note the boy drew attention the centre's security problems.

Garda Sergeant Tony Tighe told Judge John O'Connor the  boy, who is from Dublin, instigated the two escapes. 

The first was on the afternoon of May 19th after the boy and another detainee had been playing tennis. He broke away from a staff member and ran to a wheelie bin which was six feet wide and about four and a half feet high.

He pushed it to a fence and climbed on top and at that point he was joined by the second youth. 

“They scaled the boundary fence and made good their escape,” said Gda Sgt Tighe who added the teen remained at large for 45 days before he was found and returned.

The court heard that on the evening of July 28th there was a “stand-off”  between six youths and staff at the detention centre.

Gda Sgt Tighe said the tension escalated and a number of youths took possession of tennis rackets.

The boy got on shoulders of other youths and made several attempts to get on the roof of a building.

“On one occasion he got hold of a CCTV camera and was swinging out of that. He fell, got up, persisted and on the fourth attempt he got on the roof,” said  Gda Sgt Tighe. 

The teenager found a ladder and lowered it down to the yard and he along with three others “made good their escape”.

He was at large for 15 days before capture.

The sergeant said this escape generated a lot of media attention and there were significant costs in finding them.

A number of searches were carried and a Garda helicopter was also used. It also led to some staff in the centre being suspended until just recently and a “large security review had to be carried out at Oberstown”.

Local residents were also in fear.

The teenager, who was accompanied to court by his mother, is serving a two and a half year sentence for robbery and burglary while his other past crimes included a litany of thefts a couple of public order offences.

Prefacing a mitigation point as, “it may be cheeky”, defence solicitor Aenghus McCarthy asked the judge to take into account that his client “drew attention to something that needed to be addressed, improvements were made”.

A probation report was sought by the judge.

Three other boys have received custodial sentences for their parts in the July escape. Two of them were returned within a couple of days but the third avoided capture for almost three months.