Wardship application for young woman who “fell between child care and mental health regimes” – 2020vol2#6

An application was brought before the High Court wardship list by the Child and Family Agency (CFA) in respect of a young woman, A, who had recently turned 18 and who had been in special care for most of the previous three years. As she had turned 18 she no longer fell within the child care regime but could not be dealt with under the mental health regime as no HSE assessment had taken place.

Her guardian ad litem (GAL) felt the girl needed to be detained in a secure placement for her own protection, but as she was no longer eligible for special care the CFA said she could not stay in the special care unit and had identified a step-down placement for her as a transitional measure. Meanwhile it was also seeking wardship for her.

Her father was present in court and did not have legal representation. The judge thanked the father for attending court and said that she would give him a chance to be heard in respect of the application.

The court was informed that the mother was not present in court. The barrister for the CFA told the court that the mother was homeless and there had been some difficulties in respect of service of the proceedings but she had been served and had been provided with the order of the President of the High Court in early summer 2020 and the Notice of Motion before the court. The guardian ad litem (GAL) was represented by a barrister in court and a solicitor attended on behalf of the Health Service Executive (HSE) as a notice party to the application.

A new special care application had been made in the High Court in the summer of 2019 for A while she was still under 18, and the court had heard that she had previously been in special care detention since September 2016 (with a break of a few weeks between detention orders) until the spring of 2019. She was also under a full care order.

Prior to the application in the summer of 2019 to the High Court the GAL had been advocating special care for the child due to the difficulties she was facing in her high support step down unit, where she had transitioned from special care in spring 2019. These difficulties included substance abuse, impulsivity and addictive patterns of behaviour. Her high support unit was only one of two such units in the country and represented the highest level of support the CFA could provide in the community, the court heard.

The Wardship application in 2020

The judge had not dealt with this matter on any previous occasion but said she had read the papers in advance of the hearing. The barrister for the CFA clarified that there was no wardship order in place and that it was an application for an order pending a decision in respect of wardship of the young woman. The barrister said that when the application was last before the President of the High Court the CFA sought to have the GAL appointed in respect of the wardship application and to address any interim orders and that the CFA would fund the representation of the GAL on those specific issues.

The CFA barrister told the court that although the young woman was “no longer a child” it remained the CFA’s application that the young woman be made a ward of court and the CFA remained the moving party in the application. The barrister said that the HSE was a notice party and “may move in” but as the situation stood the CFA remained involved in the aftercare of the young woman until she reached the age of 21 and the CFA had a statutory role and responsibility in respect of her aftercare.

An amended Notice of Motion since the last occasion was before the court seeking interim directions with updated proposals and the standard relief sought was an order admitting the young woman to wardship. A number of reports were before the court including reports from a psychologist. The judge said that she had received the report from the medical visitor, which had not yet been disclosed to any of the parties. The barrister for the GAL asked the court to make no order in respect of wardship until all the parties had been served with the medical visitor’s report.

Referring to the steps needed before a full hearing the CFA barrister said that it “would be helpful to see the medical visitor’s report and the CFA had hoped to get a second report but that had not been possible due to the Covid-19 restrictions.” The court was told that the HSE had advised that it was in a position to provide an assessment and obtain a report.

The CFA barrister told the court that it was an unusual situation as the young woman fell between the childcare and mental health regimes. As she had turned 18 she no longer fell within the childcare regime but could not be dealt with under the mental health regime as no HSE assessment had taken place.

CFA barrister: “At present there is no legal framework aside from wardship to deal with her situation.”

The CFA barrister told the court that the young woman had been a long time in her current placement and although she was eighteen, the placement where she was “is statutorily for children”. The need for the HSE to carry out an assessment was highlighted to the court. The solicitor on behalf of the HSE said that there had been a request for assessments and there had been a number of attempts to carry out an assessment but he could not give an exact date as to when it could be done.

The judge said that she would direct that an assessment be carried out by the HSE and that she would list the wardship hearing for a date later in the year to allow the assessments take place. The judge directed for the medical visitor report to be made available to the CFA, the GAL and the HSE.

The judge said that the independent report had recommended that there should be an assessment by a clinical psychologist as to whether or not the girl had a personality disorder and their conclusion was that she “did not present with any major mental illness”. The judge wanted to specifically address the recommendation and directed the HSE to carry out a personality assessment by a clinical psychologist and any other assessment the HSE may find appropriate. At the request of the GAL an up to date cognitive assessment was directed.

The judge said that another matter that had concerned her in reading the reports was that it may not have been explained fully to the young woman that now she was eighteen things had changed and that her views should be sought in respect of wardship. The barrister for the GAL said that she needed to be served with the wardship inquiry so that she could provide her views on it.

Judge: “I’ll make an order that she be served personally with the inquiry notice and that instructions be taken from her by the GAL in respect of her attitude to the proposed orders and her views should be before the court on the next occasion.”

The judge told the father that wardship was “a big decision that will affect her future” but that it could be reviewed from time to time. The judge asked the father whether there were any steps that he would like to be in place for the proposed wardship hearing.

The father said that September was a long time away in the young woman’s life and that two to three days was a long time in her life due to the “hassle she can get into when out and about”. The father said that it was important to get her to understand the concept of a ward of court and he was concerned that with her intellectual ability that she “might not comprehend”.

Father: “She feels frustrated that she is now 18 and asks why can’t she do everything everyone else is doing.”

Listing the full hearing for later, the judge said that she was very struck in reading a report that went up to the middle of June that the girl had absconded but “the report didn’t say what happened next” and she asked for an update. The CFA barrister said that the young woman had left her placement at 11 pm and that the Gardaí were informed immediately and she was collected by the Gardaí and was returned at 11.30 am. The CFA barrister said that she was “under the influence when she returned and it took some time for that to wear off” but that she had remained at that placement since then.

The judge said that she was aware that A’s current placement was “coming to an end” and that on the first occasion of her transition in moving her to the new proposed placement her medication was not brought with her. “I was quite surprised by that”.

The court was informed that the GAL did not agree with the proposals of the framework for the next few weeks.

GAL barrister: “There is no ideal solution unfortunately but she has very complex needs. She has been in special care for three years which is extremely unusual.”

Judge: “It is a big event moving from where she has lived for a long time and it will be inevitably bumpy.”

The judge read a letter that the father had written to the court in May 2020 and she described it as “really helpful” and she thanked the father for writing it.

The judge said that the GAL’s report was “very informative” and asked for the submissions to be made on behalf of the GAL first and the CFA could respond. The GAL barrister said that his submission was “to support the status quo”.

GAL barrister: “She is the longest child in special care in Ireland from 2016 to 2020 with two interruptions for step-down placements both of which broke down.”

The barrister for the GAL said that her level of risk at the time was “enormous” and said that it was not just in respect of drug taking but also “sexual exploitation, absconsion, self-harm and harm for others and it got worse as time went on”. The barrister said that the risk was not just how she was presenting now but her trajectory.

The barrister for the GAL told the court that there was a serious incident in early 2020 and it was decided to exclude the current proposed placement on the basis that it was not secure and “that she needed a secure placement”. The court was told that another provider was contacted and that it was “unable to accommodate her because of her drug-taking behaviour” and the potential that she might bring drugs into the unit.

The barrister said that the “GAL has some sympathy with the CFA” but had concerns with the proposed placement. “It doesn’t have the physical infrastructure to detain her, no wall, no gates, no buzzers. It is just a house like any other house and no other residents. In fairness to the manager he has been clear that it is not set up to manage detention. Her transition has not gone well and there have been problems at every step.”

The barrister said that the GAL had no difficulty with the agreed three-day transition but “the question is what is the fall-back”.

GAL barrister: “The order sought is useless as there is no mechanism to enforce it. The GAL believes that the present default should continue.”

The barrister said that the GAL was “conscious it is unusual to keep an eighteen-year-old in special care” but said that it “has been done in other cases and it has been done in this case”. It was submitted that a derogation could be sought and that the current derogation was due to expire at the end of June 2020.

GAL barrister: “I have a client who is 18 ½ with derogation provided by HIQA. I don’t see why it can’t be done for a child of 18 and one month. It should continue. The order sought invited detention of her when the infrastructure is not in place. It can’t be used and is not part of their model of care.”

The barrister for the GAL said that “nobody wants to give up on the placement” as she has been in special care in her current placement for so long. The issue for the GAL was where the young woman was to be returned to if she was to abscond and the GAL had  questions in respect of who was going to carry out the risk assessments and whether she had “drugs on her which is clearly a live issue”. It remained the GAL’s view that the young woman’s current secure placement should be a default for her to be returned to should she abscond.

In respect of a long term plan it was the Gal’s view that there should be a consideration of a plan C and a placement in the UK might be appropriate for her at this time as the doctor’s report indicated that A required “a secure and safe environment for therapy to happen”. The proposed placement was not secure and was in a location where the young woman had a number of acquaintances who had a negative impact on her.

The barrister for the CFA took issue with the submission made by the barrister for the GAL that he had a client aged 18 ½ who had been permitted to stay in secure care placement after the age of eighteen, details of which were not before the court by way of affidavit. The CFA barrister said that his instructions were that the other young person referred to was the only other case and that there were “distinct factors in that case that are different”.

The court could see from the reports that when she returned to her other placement issues arose where “she gives substances to other people”. The consideration was “not just her interest but the suitability of the placement and the rights of other residents”.

The CFA barrister said it was important to understand what was meant by “detention” and there was a divergence between the GAL and the CFA.

The CFA barrister referred to the father’s letter raising the concern of long term institutionalisation and said that it was a concern the High Court President and CFA expressed on the last occasion. The “risks may prove to be unavoidable” and that the GAL, who had been involved with the young person for three years, “underplays the institutionalisation risk”.

CFA barrister: “The GAL is more comfortable with that risk than the CFA is. It is an opportunity to transition her. She herself is expressing frustration at the limitations and restrictions being imposed.

“It may be that it doesn’t work but we do think what the court has to balance is the risk of institutionalisation against the risk of harm. As she is an adult now an effort should be made to transition her to this placement. A lot of work has been done in this case to identify a suitable placement and suitable alternatives.”

The CFA barrister said that one of the difficulties that the GAL had identified “fairly” was that the proposed placement cannot detain her “but that shows that the GAL’s preference is that she be detained”. The proposed placement “is not a place of detention and is not proposed to act as place of detention” and the agreed procedure would be that if she attempted to leave the staff would attempt to convince her not to leave, it was not proposed as detention and it was “not a bespoke detention secure unit”.

The judge asked what would happen “if they don’t manage to detain her and she leaves”. The CFA barrister said that the preference in the first instance was that the GAL would return her to the new placement and staff, giving them an opportunity to engage with her. The CFA “fully accept there is a point at which the court may wish to have an alternative if the placement breaks down and she will need to go somewhere.”

Judge: “Did the CFA revise the proposals, having regard to the experience of the last three weeks. I see why the proposal was reasonable at the beginning of June but over the last three weeks there has been a stark exposure to risk. To what extent has it been moderated?”

The CFA barrister said that the plan had been under regular and constant revision to identify what supports were necessary. The difficulty was if they were not going to detain her in a secure unit there were going to be risks and it was necessary to assess what supports were necessary to manage those risks and removing some of the triggers for her behaviour.

Asked whether the CFA had carried out a risk assessment of the girl not being in a secure unit, the CFA barrister said: “There are no secure units as she is not a child and [there is] no mental health diagnosis. There are no secure non-psychiatric secure units…In the absence of a mental health diagnosis there are no options available to her in this jurisdiction. The CFA have sought permission for a referral to [UK unit] but it will take time.”

The CFA barrister added that they needed to bear in mind that the young person had “expressed the view she was looking forward to this and she likes the house and her room” and the CFA were “reluctant to simply take that off table” when she was expressing negative views about her current placement.

GAL barrister: “Nobody is saying to take it away but just what happens if it doesn’t work and it may very well not work and where can she be safely put”.

The judge asked if there was anything that the father wanted to add. The father said that he worried about A’s mental state and that she “needs to remain positive” and if she did not think the transition was going ahead “she might deteriorate very fast”. The father told the court that he was generally in favour of the new placement and that she “needs to progress at some stage and if she doesn’t she goes backwards and doesn’t have a life”.

Father: “If she absconds I would like to give the staff in [proposed placement location] a chance. She has been in the current placement for a long time and she needs something to look forward to. She is going to run away and she is going to get in trouble. She is drawn to those circles of people.”

The barrister for the CFA said it was proposed that if the young woman absconded and was brought back to the placement it was not proposed that it was the “end of” the placement and once she was brought back it was proposed that the transition continues “for her to learn boundaries.”

CFA barrister: “It is important the reports are available in advance [of the wardship hearing] so the hearing can go ahead. They need to be [made available] as soon as possible as they may be relevant for planning if there is a breakdown.”

The barrister for the GAL said that there was a “sad reality to this situation” that if the place goes from the current child secure care placement it may be a while before she could be readmitted as the place may be filled. The barrister said that the GAL had no difficulty to have her returned to the new placement if she absconded once the necessary plans were in place. If she did abscond and if there was a “concern about drugs, who is going to check” whether she had drugs on her and who would determine whether the placement could manage having the young person back.

Giving her ruling, the judge said: “This is an application by the CFA in respect of a young girl in special care for some years and has turned 18. The CFA are seeking to transition her to an open placement… there was a transition plan in place before the President in May 2020 and it was attached to the order. The transitional plan to present date hasn’t gone particularly smoothly. It would have been too much to hope for that it would have gone without any incident given her history and time in [the special care unit].”

The judge said that the plan at the moment did not include her return to the secure care unit if she absconded and was returned by gardaí. The judge summarised the CFA’s position as that the unit was for children and the young person was a “possible negative influence to other residents”.

The judge commented on the GAL’s “great commitment” to the young person, given the length of time she had worked with her and the GAL said that she should transition to the placement and there were “no other proposals for alternative placement” but that if she absconded the GAL was of the view that she should return to the special care unit as she would need detention for her needs. The judge summarised the father’s view that it is important that the young person has “a sense of optimism about her future”.

Judge: “It seems to me, as identified by the CFA, there is no option without risk for her, unfortunately. Everyone agrees we should proceed with the transition and avoid institutionalisation. There is undoubtedly a danger of her bringing drugs back and because of the function of the current placement and her age it is not her future….”

The judge said that if the young person was to abscond an order returning her to the secure care unit would “postpone the transition plan”, there was a “danger of institutionalisation and risk to other residents” and it would be to postpone the inevitable of her time to leave.

The judge said that should the young person abscond that the GAL should be notified and liberty to apply to the court in respect of any other order required. The judge said the relief sought in respect of wardship was not appropriate as the issue had not been decided and would not be until the full wardship hearing in September. The judge directed that there be “longer involvement of [the current special care placement] in terms of visiting her to have some type of continuity” and that visits were to continue for a further two weeks to the end of July 2020.

In respect of some of the other directions sought the judge said a number of orders referring to “force or detention” will have the additional words after “to the extent that same is permitted by policies governing the relevant institution” to avoid them being subject to an order that they cannot comply with.

The judge made an additional order directing the person in charge of the new placement to immediately notify the CFA and the GAL on each and every occasion that it was necessary to request the Gardaí to search for the young woman with the GAL having liberty to apply if there was a repeated breakdown in the new placement.

The judge said that there was a real urgency in respect of the HSE reports and directed that the reports be provided within four weeks, with liberty to the HSE to apply to the court if there is difficulty in complying with this date. The judge highlighted the evidence of the GAL in her report that it was “the most complex and difficult case she has ever encountered in 20 years” and particular attention would have to be given to it.

The barrister for the GAL told the court that in respect of the substantive wardship hearing the young person had the right to seek a jury trial and that if she did decide to make that choice that it may not be something that would be possible to arrange for early September and there was liberty to apply in respect of the date and the estimated hearing time.

The judge reserved the costs.

Full wardship hearing

The case returned in September and was heard over one and a half days. The court heard that A was facing 29 criminal charges in the District Court, had increasingly gone missing in care and become increasingly more violent and aggressive. She was contesting the wardship application and was represented by a solicitor.

The court heard the evidence of three psychiatrists who had assessed her capacity. Psychiatrist X had carried out three brief assessments and concluded that the young woman did not have a major mental illness or an axis one diagnosis. However he did find that she satisfied the criteria for an emotionally unstable personality disorder, her symptoms included feelings of abandonment, impulsivity, possibly a victim of sexual abuse, reckless behaviour, self-harming, suicidal behaviour, difficulty controlling anger and long-standing feelings of being abandoned. A also had a learning disability and polysubstance drug and alcohol misuse but did not meet the criteria for treatment under the Mental Health Act 2001 as disorders of personality and addiction were excluded under the Act. In the psychiatrist’s opinion, he believed that A would continue to make very bad and harmful decisions about her own care and that this could come to a tragic result through misadventure as a result of extremely bad decision-making rather than being unable to make decisions.

Psychiatrist X’s opinions were based on the reports available to him and the two half hour and one ten minute conversations/assessments with A. It was his belief that she would put herself at a higher risk of serious harm by misadventure, through a drug overdose which A would do “unknowingly and without intention to do so, there is a significant risk she would do something to hurt herself, yes.”

The GAL told the court that the majority of A’s Significant Event Notices (SENs) in care were drug and alcohol misuse. She told the court that as a consequence of A’s behaviour, her community placement had broken down. This was due to the “amount of chaos she was causing on the street all hours of the day and night with disruption to the community, shouting into a letter box, and she fell off the roof. A significant number of neighbours went to the local TD and the guards and Tusla and threatened to go public on the media if the placement stayed, so it was no longer tenable. She created the situation.”

In terms of staff retention in her placements, the GAL said that quite a number of staff had been assaulted and A had appeared in the District Court in relation to assaulting staff in all three units. One manager who had been threatened quit her job, she could not manage the level of risk. The GAL also said that while some staff tolerated her behaviour, they eventually moved on. A had assaulted a male staff member during his shift and once when he was driving she had grabbed the steering wheel of the car and tried to put it into a ditch.

The judge heard that there would be clinical oversight by a consultant psychiatrist in the proposed wardship placement, as well as a behavioural therapist, OT and a range of supports. The GAL said that the placement was needed in order to stabilise A and this was the priority, however it had not as yet been approved by HIQA.

The GAL described A as a very fragile, very vulnerable young person but there was a risk assessment currently being carried out by the people managing her. A car was written off last week, that level of risk was exceptionally high, “you cannot go on and on indefinitely, there is a point where we step in and make her safe, but we also need to give her hope as a young person”.

The judge decided to take A into wardship. She described A as witnessing her mother’s attempted suicide at a young age, an incident that did not leave her unscarred. Her mother had been neglectful of her care and A had lived on a part-time basis with her father and in foster care and then had moved into residential care.

She had taken overdoses of over-the-medication, engaged in self-harm and assaulted care staff and peers. A had been taken into care in 2016 and after a short time she was placed in special care. She was now 18 and a risk to herself and others. The CFA were pursuing wardship, made by a notice of motion in mid-2020 after a number of special care applications made by the CFA arising out of “a litany of chaotic, dangerous and risk-taking behaviour on” her part.

The judge noted that she was not entitled to make A a ward of court if she was able to understand and able to weigh the risks of her behaviour, even if she had made hundreds [of bad decisions]. “I can only take her into wardship if I am satisfied that she takes those risks and makes bad decisions in an uninformed way.”

The judge stated that she preferred the evidence of psychiatrist Y, an expert with experience of troubled adolescents, she said that the other experts were disadvantaged by the short amount of time spent with A.

Psychiatrist Y had had a very long time to record the girl’s pattern of not understanding, A did not have the ability to weigh up risk. Both Psychiatrist Y and the GAL were of the opinion that A “has learned to say what those involved with her want her to say, rote phrases that people will want to hear”. Psychiatrist Y was of the opinion that A did not have the capacity to manage her affairs and had little or no insight into danger.

She had found A to have severe disruptive and an explanatory language disorder that caused her to struggle to hear, process and remember and understand what was said to her. Her cognitive function on assessment on the Weschsler Intelligence Scale for Children showed that she was in the borderline range of all tests. This meant that A could not retain small amounts of information and this lack of ability would impede her from learning. Her working memory did not allow her to weigh up decisions.

However her cognitive ability could be improved within a programme using simple language with simple messages. A secure environment within wardship would endeavour to develop her cognitive abilities.

The judge said that she was satisfied that A did not go through any decision-making process prior to making decisions prejudicial to her welfare and it was this that distinguished her from her associates who were taking risks but knowing they were doing so. “I am satisfied that those risks have no meaning to [A] and are exacerbated by her substance and alcohol abuse”.

Having considered all of the evidence under s. 15 of the Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871, the court was fully satisfied that A did not understand the decisions she was making and weighing up the risks. She said that A had a difficulty with verbal memory, comprehension and language, a significant intellectual disability, as a result of which she could not manage her affairs or make informed decisions, “she will not gain capacity at a later stage, she has missed so many of her appointments thus far. She is a very likeable but troubled young woman, as the GAL said, and I sincerely hope that her secure environment will bring her towards a point of making informed decisions. At the moment there is no prospect of her doing that while working towards a future. Much of her behaviour over several years shows she craves containment, and the only time [A] appears to have made any real progress was when she was in special care and so for all of the above reasons I will make her a ward of court.”

However the court heard that the proposed placement had not yet met with A in order to assess her needs and the staff also had to hold their own internal admissions meeting. This was due to take place early the following week.

A’s solicitor was extremely concerned that the placement was not ready and there was not a more robust safety plan given A’s level of risk-taking behaviour. Her solicitor was also worried as to how A would take the news of being taken into wardship, given she had contested the application. The solicitor’s expectation was that A would run as there was nothing the staff in her current placement could do to hold her.

The barrister for the GAL told the court that HIQA had given verbal feedback that a cert would be issued for the proposed placement. The judge stated that she was “extremely worried” the placement was not yet ready and that news of her impending wardship would have adverse effects on A.

The HSE barrister explained that many psychiatric hospitals were not secure places and therefore not suitable for A in the interim, but she would take instructions.

The court placed an embargo on notification of decision of wardship by the media “to avoid any catastrophe that might arise in the future”.

It was noted by the court that it was not “so easy to magic up a bed” for the HSE and she appreciated all the wonderful work they did in wardship. The GAL suggested that the CFA and HSE come together to find a bed somewhere.

The court adjourned for a few hours and when it returned the barrister for the HSE told the court that the Head of Mental Health Services, the Head of Disability Services, the Executive Clinical Director in the relevant area and Head of Services had all been called to find an interim placement in an approved centre. However it had been explained that all of the approved centres were under considerable pressure in terms of occupancy and the restrictions regarding Covid-19. There was a psychiatric intensive care unit with a bed and although this was probably the most secure centre, there was an extremely vulnerable and violent patient there.

The clinical directors of the HSE were concerned there would be no therapeutic benefit to her being in an approved centre where she would have to be restrained and sedated. These centres were not secure placements and people absconded from them all the time.

Senior counsel for the CFA explained to the court that the CFA had already considered various options such as the UK and other community placements. A meeting had been organised for the following day to access other short term placements if this proposed placement did not work. He told the court that “between the HSE and the CFA, [this centre] is really the only option we could identify within our remit, we had contacted them in March/April because they have a new facility with a secure element to it. We don’t have a facility that we operate, HIQA have to certify it still.”

The judge said: “We don’t want to find ourselves back in court next week with no fall back plan.”

“I completely agree,” replied senior counsel for the CFA, “it is not in her interests to have inter-agency discussions about who is responsible for what. But we were concerned as to what might happen if [this centre] falls through. What we hope is that the two agencies will engage intensively to try and identify a fall-back plan. [This centre] is a private provider so we can’t compel them to do that.”

The court asked for the proposed option and a fall-back option. She told the parties to come back to court in a week’s time and said that A was not yet in wardship, her judgment was withdrawn, she said that “the whole purpose of wardship is for me to vindicate the rights of the ward and protect her best interests and that means trying to put a bit of pressure on the agencies with this very difficult handover. I recognise the difficulties of moving out of the Child and Family Agency and moving into the adult world of wardship. In the meantime, I am not taking her into wardship, I am withholding my judgment until Thursday of next week although it will be delivered in much the same form as today.”

The judge said that she was available and willing to engage with A via videolink or in whatever format, and the parties understood that A was being informed that wardship “had not yet been approved”. The judge knew that A was expecting to hear her decision that day but as the placement was not as yet approved and they were also awaiting the backup, no news was to be relayed to A until everything was ready and in place for her transfer.

When the parties returned the following Monday the court heard that the placement was not yet available as the staff had to be trained, the placement would be ready in one month’s time. Her current placement was not secure and there were serious concerns for her safety and the safety of staff and others. The CFA did not have any secure placement in the interim and therefore the only option was for A to continue living in her current placement.

The judge noted that once A realised she was being brought into wardship the risk would escalate and that would be enough to destabilise the placement before it was available in a month’s time.

The court heard that A had had three meetings so far with [the proposed placement] and had been engaging with them, so it could be assumed she knew that this was going to be her placement.

The judge decided to reduce the risk of escalation and publish her judgment and reasons later, after [the centre] had become available.

The solicitor for the young woman told the court that the situation was really problematic as A felt that everyone in court was “going to be talking behind my back”. She was very nervous and had said, “I’m going to get locked up”. Her solicitor told the court that she had very serious concerns for the girl, she agreed that A did need to be informed of the court’s decision that day because “any trust she had is gone, she’s starting to be suspicious of what I’m telling her, this is extremely difficulty. She knows what’s coming down the track.”

A’s first question was: “Am I being locked up and am I going to [the centre]?” said her solicitor, so even if the judge took the location of the placement out of her judgment, “A would see through this. If someone knows they are going into custody, there tends to be a blow out,” said her solicitor. “I know this from working in criminal law.”

The judge noted it was the clear view that A was at the end of her tether. A’s solicitor told the court that she had spoken to her client every day for the last two weeks and every time she spoke to her A was asking her what was happening, what was the decision.

“Somebody has to decide whether they want me to deliver the judgment today,” said the judge, “and [the solicitor for A] has to decide whether a decision will destroy all trust left, it’s [the solicitor’s] call I think at this point.”

Senior counsel for the CFA informed the court that his instructions were that it was important that A be informed that day.

The court made the formal order taking A into wardship and asked for a notice of motion to be brought in terms of the placement with 24 hours’ notice.

One month later A moved into her new placement.