Short interim care order granted for toddler who entered the State in suspicious circumstances – 2023vol2#5

A Dublin District Court judge granted an initial four-day interim care order for a young child that had arrived in the State by ferry from the UK accompanied by two adults who claimed to be her mother and grandfather but who had been unable to prove their relationship to the child.

The judge granted the short interim care order to allow the results of DNA tests to become available in order to shed light on the familial relationship, if any, between the adult female and the young child. The child had been the subject of an emergency care order the previous week, which was due to expire that day.

A garda who had been present at the port when the child and the two adults arrived gave her evidence to the court. She said that, 10 days before, she had been on duty in the morning conducting immigration checks on the foot passengers arriving from a UK ferry when she encountered an adult male and female and a young child in a buggy. She said that the man handed her his provisional driving licence by way of identification and she had let him through immigration. However, as he was entering, she noticed that he had tried to push through a buggy with a child in it at the same time. A woman appeared to be assisting him take the child off the ferry.

When questioned by the garda, the man said that he was the child’s grandfather. The woman handed in a driver’s licence by way of identification. However, the garda was not satisfied that the photograph on the driver’s licence matched the identity of the woman before her.

The man showed the garda a letter which he claimed was permission from the child’s mother.

The garda had noticed that the child had been calling the woman “Mammy”. However, the woman told the Garda that this was simply because she had formed a bond with child while on the ferry. The adults told the garda the name of a person who they claimed was the child’s mother and said that this person had a birth certificate for the child.

The garda said that she was not satisfied with the answers of the two adults and invoked the emergency powers of An Garda Síochána under section 12 of the Child Care Act 1991. She said that the child had no personal items other than the clothes she had on, a bag with soiled clothes and some nappies. She found no other personal items for the child.

The garda organised food for the adults and the child and the child slept for about three or four hours. The garda said that she “could tell something was not right”. She said that the woman “just got up and left the child”. She had not been in contact since. The garda said that DNA samples had been taken, but they did not have the results as yet. She said that the woman had spoken with an English accent and the man, who appeared to be older, had spoken with an Irish accent.

A letter purporting to be from the child’s mother giving the adults permission to have the child in their care was read into evidence. The letter from a named woman provided a name for the child and said that she was to be fitted for her christening gown. However, the names in the letter could not be verified.

A Garda Inspector also gave evidence to the court. He said that the child’s case came to his attention during the previous week and a member of his team had notified the Child and Family Agency (CFA).

He said that he had met and spoken with the man, who was residing in a location outside of Dublin. He was in the company of the woman who now identified herself by the same name as that of the purported mother of the child. No proof of this identity was offered by the woman. The inspector said that the whole story as to why the woman now claimed to be someone else did not make sense.

The inspector had told the man and woman that he would not be satisfied until there was, at a minimum, DNA evidence to substantiate their relationship with the child.

He said that the woman provided a DNA sample to him and that he now also had a DNA sample from the child. He hoped that it would be tested the next day and that there would be a result two days after that. He had also liaised with the UK authorities who planned to visit the UK address of the person whom it had been claimed was the child’s mother.

He had spoken with the woman who had arrived with the child. She had told him that she was unwell but that her sister would bring him her identification. However, he had not yet received any such identification. He said that he had spoken with the purported sister of the woman. She said that her solicitor had the required identification. However, her solicitor was in the UK.

The Garda Inspector told the court that he was none the wiser at this point as to the identity of the child or the woman. He did not understand the point of the whole situation. However, he had concerns that this might or might not be the child’s mother and he did not know for sure the identity of the child.

The child’s allocated social worker also gave evidence to the court. She said that the child had been taken into emergency care and had settled into her placement without any difficulty. She said that the child had not asked for her mother at all. The child had had some clothes, but all of them were very dirty. She had been in an initial emergency placement for the first few days, after which she had been moved to another placement. She had settled into this second placement very well also.

She said that the woman, who had entered the country with the child and now purported to be her mother, had not made any appearance for seven days. She had had no proof of her identity. She had made up some “cock and bull story” about her sister coming with her proof of identity but no one had come. The woman had cancelled two meetings that had been arranged. She had not appeared to be bothered about the child at all. The social worker noted that the mother was not present in court on this occasion either.

She said that the CFA’s plan for the child would depend on the outcome of the DNA results. She had been in contact with the UK social services who had informed her that they had been involved with the family up until a date about two years earlier. However, since then there had been no further contact. There had been some reports to the UK police regarding issues of domestic violence.

The social worker said that the CFA could not return the child to two adults who were unable to provide any proof of their identity or of their relationship to the child. She added that even then, there were some things that the child had said that were concerning and that she would still require an assessment by the UK social services in the event that the child was to be returned to the UK.

She said that the UK social services had made contact with the child’s father and grandmother who appeared to be concerned. However, the woman who had entered the State with the child and purported to be her mother had not asked for any access to the child and the social worker had received one text message from her asking how the child was. The social worker said that the woman had enquired about the child on another occasion and had appeared to be upset at that time.

The judge said that this was an application for a first-time interim care order. He said that he was satisfied that the suspicions and professional concerns raised were such that the section 12 emergency powers had been invoked correctly and that the court had been correct to grant the emergency care order.

He said that the concerns as to the identity of the child and her parents were valid and there were perplexing circumstances as to how the child had presented to the gardai. He acknowledged that DNA evidence had been taken and that the CFA and gardai were awaiting the results of those DNA tests.

He also acknowledged the attempts of the child’s allocated social worker to make contact with the woman who claimed to be her mother and that even one week later that woman had not been able to present any information to confirm her identity and/or relationship to the child.

The judge said that he was satisfied that an interim care order was warranted as, at present, it could not be established to the satisfaction of anybody, neither the CFA, the Gardaí nor the court, the identity of the child’s mother.

On that basis the judge granted a short interim care order until the end of that week (four days) to allow the results of the DNA testing to be ascertained. He also directed that a guardian ad litem (GAL) be appointed to represent the child’s interests.