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High Court Lawyers for at-risk teen launch challenge over agency's alleged failure to secure special care

The teen's life was described as being chaotic and from a young age she had been neglected and exposed to domestic violence

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Lawyers representing an at-risk teenage girl have launched a High Court challenge over the Child and Family Agency's alleged failure to place her at a secure special care unit.

The court heard that there are fears that the health, welfare and life of the teenager, who cannot be identified by order of the court, is at risk from self-harm.

The teen's life was described as being chaotic and from a young age she had been neglected and exposed to domestic violence.

The girl, the court also heard, has a history of substance abuse, as well as being threatening and violent to staff at facilities she had been placed at.

She has absconded from some of her placements, which have not worked out and had come to the attention of the gardai.

There were also fears that she may have been assaulted and exploited by other older persons.

She has also required medical treatment at a hospital arising out of incidents of self-harm.

The court heard that she urgently needs to be made the subject of a High Court order that would see her placed at a secure unit, where she can get the treatment and therapies she requires.

It is claimed that the CFA's National Special Care Referrals Committee, which considers application for special care found the girl is in need of special care.

However, it is claimed that the CFA, which is the provider of child protection services in Ireland, has withheld making a formal decision in respect of the teen until a placement becomes available.

Represented by Gerry Durcan SC, instructed by solicitor Sarah Molloy the child, who has brought the proceedings through her court appointed guardian, known as a guardian ad litem, says that the CFA is not entitled to defer making any formal determination regarding the girl.

The failure to make an application to the High Court for a special care order was unlawful and contrary to its obligations under the 1991 Child Care Act.

No placement in special care had been identified in respect of the girl, nor has any projected date been provided to do so, it is claimed.

In his submissions to the court counsel said that that issues regarding the deferral of special care orders for children had been covered in two different judgements of the High Court.

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Counsel said that her guardian is very concerned that the is at risk of immediate self-harm in the community unless she is placed into special care.

 As a result of the failure to make a determination in respect of the teen lawyers representing her interests have brought judicial review proceedings against the CFA.

In her action the teenager seeks declarations from the court including that the CFA has failed to determine whether she needs special care, and to act on such determination.

She also seeks declarations that the CFA has breached its statutory duty by failing to have sufficiently staffed special care units to place the teen, and that the CFA has failed in its duty for seeking a special care order in respect of the girl.

She also seeks orders requiring the CFA to make a determination whether she needs to be placed into special care, and to act on that determination.

The matter came before Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan at Monday's vacation siting of the High Court.

The judge, on an ex-parte basis, said she was satisfied to grant the teenager's lawyers permission to bring the challenge against the CFA.

Given the urgent nature of the matter, the action was made returnable to Tuesday's sitting of the court.

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