One morning in the High Court Minors’ List, the court was informed that a young person in secure care had absconded from a moving car during ‘a mobility’ the previous weekend. There had been two adults in the car with her at the time and the girl was still missing three days later.
The judge remarked that “opening the door of a car while it was moving along and to jump out or fall out seemed to be one of the escape routes” being used by children in special care.
“I would have thought that security would have seen it that there were child-locks in the car or a car with no back door, you may pass on my views,” he told the barrister for the CFA, “as there are a number of these escapes.”
When the case returned two days later for the Minors Review List, the court heard that the young person was still missing and was being actively sought. A media alert had been issued appealing to the public to locate her. The CFA appreciated that the matter was quite serious and it was going to investigate how this had been allowed to happen, reported the barrister for the CFA
The judge said that he did not want to target anyone unfairly, and his remarks were not directed at the personnel in the car that night as he appreciated managing mobilities was difficult but it was most unsatisfactory that this had been able to happen.
This was a young girl “being driven back to secure care and she had escaped from a moving car and disappeared into the night. Doesn’t it raise a lot of questions about secure care when something like that happens? Quite apart from child locks, no back doors should be considered, too many of them are getting away when out on mobilities,” he remarked.
“The facts speak for themselves. I don’t know what an investigation is going to achieve or conclude other than what is blindingly obvious and that is the car was not secure enough.
“It needs to be addressed or worse could happen than the child escaping into the night and that is bad enough. I want to hear the matter being addressed in a practical way even it if involves the Gardai.”
The judge asked to hear back with regards to what practical efforts would be made to stop young people from absconding, but not through the use of police vans. He suggested three door vehicles and child locks in five door vehicles.
The barrister for the guardian ad litem (GAL) told the court that the he agreed very much with the comments made by the court and in his opinion it had not been a good idea to bring this girl out on a mobility to an area she was familiar with and at high risk of absconsion.
She had absconded before and had been found hidden within a sofa in her father’s house, with her father sitting on top of the sofa, trying to hide her. Before the child had been brought into secure care there had been serious issues involving her safety and it was imperative that she be located soon and brought back to special care immediately.