HSE did absolutely nothing, says judge

Judge “flabbergasted” that youth in HSE care cannot read or write

Mullingar District Court has heard that a 21-year-old youth who was in the care of the HSE for eight years can neither read nor write.

Judge Neilan said he was “flabbergasted”.

“The very least they could have done is see that he has a proper education and see that he can read and write before being put into independent living,” he said.

“I am not prepared to see him slip through the cracks on the basis of the failings of the HSE.”

 He also expressed his displeasure that a HSE representative had not made herself known to the court while the case was being heard.

The judge said he had vivid memories of Patrick Conlon, 15 Grange Meadows appearing before him in 2006 at Christmas when attempts were made by the court to put a roof over his head. “He is here since and has made little or no progress,” said the judge.

“I know Patrick. I am mindful of the sadness of his situation and the very difficult background.”

At that time he had left a centre for independent living in Navan and when the judge requested a psychiatric report, it emerged that he wasn’t suitable for independent living “albeit that was the HSE’s conclusion,” he added.

He recalled that when Mr Conlon had gone to the post office to collect his welfare allowance, his book had been confiscated.

He said the last he had heard of Mr Conlon’s sister, with whom he is now living, she was “in a place where she had no right to be and which is undesirable for Patrick to be”.

Ms Patricia Cronin said her client has plans to attend a course in literacy skills. She admitted that he had no real structure in his life and spent his days playing some sport, but was not “attending anywhere”. He has been trying to gain employment but can’t because he is illiterate.  

It was confirmed that Mr Conlon had been discharged from the HSE in Drogheda in June 2006 and Judge Neilan expressed his disappointment that the court had invested three years in him but he had made “very little progress”.

He said that Mr Conlon was only “a number on the wall”.

“The HSE did absolutely nothing,” he added.

As the hearing came to an end, the judge requested to know who the adult speaking to Ms Cronin was, and when the woman identified herself as a HSE official who had come with Patrick to ensure he attended court, the judge challenged her to explain her silence.

“I apologise if I should have identified myself,” she told the court and said the HSE were waiting to transfer Patrick to their care in Mullingar, but were unwilling to do so while there were criminal proceedings in train.

She said independent living had proven problematic. Patrick had been in a house in Drogheda until he assaulted a member of staff.

The judge requested a report into the failings of the HSE when Patrick was in care and thereafter.

Mr Conlon will appear in court again in June. He faces a number of burglary charges dating back to December 2006.


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