An Interim Care Order was extended for a month for a teenage boy who had been taken into interim care in a rural town after he had gone to the Gardai saying his father had thrown him out of home and had assaulted him.
The father, who represented himself, denied the allegation and opposed the application.
A social worker confirmed the contents of his report, which said that the boy had lived with his father for the previous 14 years with no knowledge of his mother, who had left the family home when he was two. He believed her mother to be dead. They had recently met and she was in court and there was a request from her solicitor that work be done to reconstruct their relationship.
The social worker told the court the boy needed reconstructive surgery on his nose. He would have an occupational therapist’s assessment for dyspraxia and an educational assessment. He had been suspended from school for two days, but had completed his State examinations recently and thought he had done well.
There had been an abusive relationship between his parents prior to their separation. His mother had given written consent in 2002 to allow the father, who was an immigrant, bring the boy to his father’s country for a holiday. That was the last she saw of him, though he later returned to Ireland. There was a fear now that the father would send the boy to his native country.
The social worker said there was on-going concern for the boy’s welfare and safety. The father had no wish to engage with social services. The boy alleged his father struck him during an altercation, and a doctor said his injuries were consistent with such an allegation. The doctor said this was the worst such injury he had seen in 37 years’ practice.
The social worker said the father had described his son as “a cancer” and said he did not want him back. The boy had said he wanted to remain in the care of the Child and Family Agency. He felt confused about his relationship with his step-siblings. He felt if he established a relationship with them he would be sent home.
The social worker said he considered the boy’s health, development and welfare would be avoidably impaired if he returned to his father’s care.
The father asked the social worker if, following the Gardai telling him that the son said he was put out of his home, he had put the allegation to the father or any other member of the family. “I didn’t because you wouldn’t sign a consent form to talk to your children,” the social workers replied.
He asked him had he asked the school principal who the boy was hanging around with and whether he was involved in drinking and drugs. The social worker said the teenager denied the father’s allegations, though he admitted he had taken a drink.
The judge asked the father had he got information on dental appointments for the boy between the years 2007 and 2015, as requested at a previous hearing. The father told him there was a note from the dentist saying there was nothing in the computer.
The judge asked the social worker when he thought the injury to the boy’s nose had occurred. The social worker said they were still trying to establish a date. They thought it was about two months previously.
“Did you know he had a problem with his nose?” the judge asked the father.
“He was trying to hide it from me,” the father replied. “He was hanging around with bad company and doing bad things, like drink and drugs.”
“He says it was caused by you,” the judge said.
“It was witnessed,” the social worker added.
“What about drink and drugs?” asked the judge.
“The boy said he never smoked or took drugs. He admitted he tried alcohol,” the social worker said.
The father said he had dis-improved in care. He was thin and nervous and biting his nails. “I have grave concerns about him.” The social worker said he was meeting his mother for the first time in 14 years and was nervous.
“Do you think it was a good thing he didn’t know his mother was alive for 14 years?” the judge asked.
“There was never a time,” the father said. “I was so busy. I was going to disclose to him at the beginning of this year, but I was so busy with my work.”
The mother said she had been contacted by the visa section of her husband’s embassy saying her son was looking for a visa. Asked if she had had any contact with him before that, she said: “I didn’t know where he was since 2002.”
“Is that any way to treat a child?” the judge asked. “Not to know where his mother was for 14 years? Assaulting him so he has to have surgery?”
Father: “I didn’t.”
A Garda told the court the boy was very upset when he arrived in the Garda station. He said his father had punched him when he was coming out of a local take-away and told him to leave the house. “You confirmed to me if he was not prepared to do things your way he should leave the house,” she said to the father.
Father: “I want to care for him. He is not being cared for nutrition-wise, health-wise.”
Social worker: “The doctor said he is healthy apart from the injury to his nose.”
The mother told the court she had had a meeting with her son, and the meeting had gone very well. She had thought he was in his father’s country. “You never thought otherwise until you got the phone call?” the judge asked. “I didn’t know what a visa was,” she replied.
The judge extended the Interim Care Order and said a date would be set later for a hearing of a full Care Order application. He urged the father to obtain a solicitor for this hearing.
When the case came back for a further renewal of the Interim Care Order a month later the social worker said a specialist had since seen the boy and confirmed he needed surgery to correct the injury to his nose. He had given numerous instances of physical abuse by his father. He told a psychotherapist he was grateful for the CFA’s intervention, he said he was happy and settled in his foster home and did not want to go home. He would consider mediation with his father further down the line.
He had paternal relatives living in other parts of the country, but had little contact with them as his father had a very poor relationship with them. His mother reported domestic violence on the part of the father in 2002, and St Vincent de Paul had records of reports, but there had been minimal follow-up. Shortly after this the father had returned to his country of origin, but later he returned to Ireland.
The father gave sworn evidence concerning the incident leading to his son going to the Gardai. He said he came home after work and was told his son was out. When the son arrived home later there was an argument, but he said he never told him to leave home, the boy had said he did not want to live at home any more. The following day he went to the Garda station on another matter and the Gardai told him his son had been in and had made a complaint against him.
He said a few months earlier his son had come home drunk and said he was not living at home any more. He got out a window and left the house.
Some months before that his son had turned up at his place of work and the security man said a woman had been robbed of her mobile phone. His son had taken it. Asked if he had reported this to the police, he said he had not, but his son had admitted the offence to his wife and half-siblings.
Judge: “You’re bringing all this up now. All the social worker had was [your son] turned up at the Garda station a few months ago. All this has to be checked out.”
Father: “He was missing school, hanging about in bad company for the past year and a half. He had detentions for misbehaviour. He took my van without permission. He took money from me. Where did that money go? He has clothes, books, everything. Did it go on drink, drugs?”
Judge: “Why didn’t you mention this a few months ago? The social workers are going to have to check all this out.”
CFA solicitor: “There have been four court appearances. This is the first time you gave all this evidence and this explanation for why [your son] left the house.”
Father: “I mentioned it the last time but no-one paid any heed to me. I never told him to leave the house. He was drunk all the time and came in through the Velux window. I never told him to leave.”
Solicitor: “Did you go after him?”
Father: “No. I didn’t sleep all night.”
Solicitor: “Did you contact the Gardai?”
Father: “No. I expected him to go to a friend’s house.”
Solicitor: “Did you ring them? Did you go around to see if he was there?”
A Garda said, from the body of the court: “You did come in the next day. You told me that if he was not able to live by your rules he was not welcome in the house.”
Father: “Maybe I said I was having problems with him. I wanted someone to help me out.”
Solicitor: “Why did you not report your child was missing? You made no enquiries.”
Father: “He was not missing. I saw him with friends. I knew where he was. If you know where your child is you don’t enquire.”
Garda (from the body of the court): “You know now, maybe. But you didn’t know on that day where he was.”
Father: “He was with the wrong people and the wrong family. I don’t want to bring names into it.”
The CFA solicitor said he had just referred to five alleged crimes on the part of his son, including theft, though he had not referred to any of these previously. “Is it your case that it’s all his fault, he’s an out-of-control child and you can’t handle him any more? Does this not support what you said to the Garda that if he didn’t live by your rules he was not welcome in the house. You said to the social worker he was a cancer, to be cut out.”
Father: “His behaviour is like a cancer. There must be rules in a house.”
Judge: “Because of what you have said all these things must be investigated. The Interim Care Order must be extended. There is no sitting next month. Do you consent to an extension for two months?”
The father said he consented to the extension of the Interim Care Order.