Judge gambles with youth’s custody in the hope of making a point

A judge has gambled with the possibility of a young offender absconding for a 13th time this month in the hope of highlighting the lack of appropriate places for such youths.

Judge Seamus Hughes made the unique order in the District Court this week (July 24 ) when he ordered the remand of a 16-year-old boy to Oberstown House after already being informed by the staff there that they had no room for him.

He also ordered that the director of Oberstown House and “a senior Ministerial presence” appear before him in at a special sitting in Mullingar on Friday (today ) to explain how this was allowed to happen.

“At some stage this has to be brought to a head. I didn’t want to be the first out to pull the trigger, but there’s other judges in worse positions than me [on this issue],” he continued.

The offender travelled in Garda custody to the Oberstown facility in Lusk, Co Dublin on Wednesday evening and, as it is illegal for them to remand him in their care overnight because of his age, they were obliged to return him to Tallykeel House in Ardee, Co Louth where he has been living under a HSE care order.

According to a care worker, the HSE couldn’t give an exact tally for the total number of times the boy has absconded from here, “but it’s 12-plus in the last four weeks”.

Inspector Aidan Minnock explained how the boy was involved in the robbery from a girl in an Athlone park on July 15 when he allegedly took her iPhone brandishing a meat tenderiser whilst under the care order.

When arraigned on this issue in Longford on July 16, a bail condition that he remain in Tallykeel House before his appearance in Athlone this week was imposed.

However, he escaped again on July 19, before being found on the Town Bridge in Athlone on July 20 having consumed “a cocktail of drugs”.

Though he was brought to hospital in Ballinasloe, he jumped from the car on the way back, and remained at large until July 21.

“His disposition in court alarmed me, and I’m concerned for his safety and the safety of others,” said the judge.

“I understand beds are available in Oberstown but are not being used. I feel there might be a union or a staffing thing before beds become available,” said the judge.

“Young man, you see the difficulty I’m getting myself into, but everybody is acting in your best interests,” said Judge Hughes before remanding the boy in some custody to Mullingar District Court on Friday (July 26 ).


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