Judge cannot discuss care plan for 18-year-old – 2013vol1#27

A judge ruled he could not allow evidence on an after-care plan brought before Dublin District court because the child concerned had now reached the age of 18 and the court no longer had jurisdiction in the matter.

The barrister for the guardian ad litem (GAL) said he had concerns about the plan, and the plan should have been produced before the child turned 18. The solicitor for the HSE said that the HSE accepted this, but it had now produced the plan. It went into details about the boy’s skills and contact with his parents and foster-parents. He would stay with the foster parents until the end of the academic year, and then move into a therapeutic community. If he did not like that there was an alternative with support from disability services.

Counsel for the GAL said this was a young man who was very vulnerable. He had a physical disability plus “pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified”. He would continue in a special school until the end of the academic year. The GAL’s concern was for phases two and three of his care. He [the GAL] had set out what was required and needed more details on what was planned. This was a very vulnerable young man who would not be capable of independent living during his lifetime. He had a statutory right to an assessment. He was aware he was no longer a minor and the matter now came under the jurisdiction of a different court.

The HSE solicitor said that there were no proceedings before the District Court. “I can’t allow the court get involved in an inquiry where it has no jurisdiction. The power of this court does not extend beyond the age of 18. This court has no function to hear evidence beyond the age of 18.”

The barrister for the GAL said he appreciated the difficulty the court was placed in. “This matter is before the court today because when X [the young man] was a child there was no proper after-care plan and the matter had to be adjourned. I appreciate this has placed the court in a difficult position.”

The judge said: “The position is that when the matter came before the court X was a child approaching 18. At that time there was no after-care plan before the court. That is why it was put back to a date beyond his 18th birthday. I have to accept that my jurisdiction has come to an end and it is not appropriate the court should hear evidence. If there are shortcomings in the plan they can’t be examined here.

“I am very concerned that a practice should not develop that when a child is approaching 18 and comes before this court for an assessment of after-care needs that the plan is not provided in a timely way, when the court has jurisdiction.”

“That was not the intention here,” the HSE solicitor said.

“I accept that,” the judge replied.

The barrister for the GAL said the written after-care plan had serious shortcomings and things were mentioned in court that were not in it.

The judge said he could not allow the GAL to give evidence on it. “Under the Disability Act I have no jurisdiction. There is an internal appeal procedure and then an appeal to the High Court. This court has achieved all it can at this juncture.”

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