An Interim Care Order was granted in the District Court for a teenage girl who had moved to Ireland from another jurisdiction with a man who claimed to have a legal document proving consent from her parents allowing him to be her guardian.
The man who claimed to have guardianship attended court and his solicitor requested that he become a party to the proceedings. However no formal order had been lodged.
“He is in a sexual relationship with that child,” said the solicitor for the CFA, “there are child protection concerns and we don’t know enough at this point to have him involved in the court process. The respondent parents are in [the other jurisdiction] and the application today in the absence of an affidavit has no grounds.”
“His position is clear,” said the man’s solicitor, “he was appointed a guardian in [the other jurisdiction].”
“If he is in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that’s hardly a glowing report of a guardian, is it?” pointed out the judge.
He then asked for a formal application on notice with a grounding affidavit in order for the court to give full consideration to the man becoming a party to the proceedings. The judge also asked for an official translation of the document relating to guardianship that the man had given to the Gardaí.
The document was being contested as to legitimacy by the parents who were in the other jurisdiction, said the CFA solicitor, their application was to remove and revoke it.
“The validity or otherwise of that document has to be decided before we can decide if he should be a party to the proceedings,” said the judge. “For the time being he is excluded from proceedings. By all means bring your application once the validity of that document is established.” The man [Mr X] and his solicitor left the court.
The judge then noted that a big concern was the jurisdiction of the District Court to proceed with the ICO application. Article 20 allowed the court to take “emergency steps as it were” said the CFA solicitor in a submission to the court, “so there should be no difficulty today”.
Given the age of the child, the judge directed to join her as a party to further proceedings subject to the ICO being granted. For now the case would proceed under Article 20 and the court directed that an Article 17 enquiry would take place.
A Garda told the court that contact was made by Interpol the week previously by email informing them that police in [the other jurisdiction] had received a complaint in relation to the child.
The parents had told the police that they had given guardianship of their daughter to a Mr [X] in order for him to travel to Ireland where she would be employed as a babysitter.
However they were unable to contact their daughter or Mr [X] and they now believed that he intended to marry her. They were against it.
The Garda told the court that he had gone to a number of houses in an area in the Wicklow area but had found eventually located the girl in a house in the Dublin jurisdiction. A child specialist interviewer from An Garda Síochana had accompanied him. The child produced ID and then the male, Mr [X] arrived.
He stated that he was her boyfriend but also her legal guardian.
The Garda asked the girl to accompany him to the Garda station in relation to the parents’ concerns. At the station “she informed us she was happy to be in Ireland, felt safe in the house, but she hadn’t contacted her parents, she said she didn’t have a phone number for them but her boyfriend had. Mr [X] said he didn’t have their number and that the girl did.
“He produced a document that he said gave him guardianship over her, signed by the parents in front of a notary in [the other jurisdiction].”
In the Garda specialist interview, the child stated that she was in a sexual relationship with the man, said the Garda. A Section 12 [Emergency Care Order application] was then invoked as she was an unaccompanied minor in the State. He had spoken to her in the presence of the child specialist interviewer and an interpreter. Section 12 was also invoked because he feared she would abscond, she had been difficult to locate to begin with.
The Garda then gave the official translation of the document to the judge. He told the court that he had been in contact with the Home Affairs officer in the embassy for the other jurisdiction and that the parents were in the process of taking an application before the courts there to have the document null and voided.
“[Mr X] says the parents are complaining because he has stopped sending money, he had sent money for the first few months, 200 or 300 euros, he said that they have an elder daughter married four times to four different men and she has a number of children and now no one will marry her. He said if [the girl] is returned she will be married off for cattle and that if he put 500 euros in their account there would be no more word from them,” said the Garda.
The Garda had sent direct questions regarding the elder daughter via the Embassy and was awaiting a reply. He had also asked the police from the other jurisdiction for an official copy of Mr [X’s] document and he had not received any copies of proceedings from over there either.
The judge asked him to find out if the proceedings were civil or criminal and to obtain an official translation of them.
The social worker told the court that the girl was now living in a residential unit for young girls and was settling in well. A full time bed had been offered to her she had accepted. She preferred the unit to a foster care placement. She had been very fearful that an immigration officer would come to remove her but the social worker had explained that she was now in the care of the CFA.
The girl had told her that she had first met Mr [X] when her parents made arrangements for him to travel with her to Ireland and that he had agreed to pay her parents a monthly sum, when he had stopped paying they had gone to court.
“She is terrified of the idea of returning home,” said the social worker, there was a man there her parents wanted her to marry. Her sister was in her early twenties and had been married four times and had five children. The girl reported physical abuse by her parents.
“Why does it concern you that she’s an unaccompanied minor?” asked the CFA solicitor.
“I would be concerned of any child with no parents and I’m concerned as to legitimacy of the relationship. She is staying with a boyfriend who is a good few years older than her, an interpreter needs to get a full understanding of her situation here,” said the social worker.
“She has no legally recognised guardian in this country.”
There were no concerns about her general health. One male friend had come to visit her, he was in his 30s. She was not allowed to see Mr [X] unaccompanied, said the social worker, but had asked to see him.
“On the basis of the allegation of the sexual relationship and that there is no clear guardian present, no person in loco parentis here, [the girl] is entirely economically and socially dependent on Mr [X]. I have to doubt in that circumstance that she had any free will in this matter, I feel the threshold has been met and the ICO is proportionate,” said the judge.
The ICO was granted and a date set for the extension. The parents were to be served outside the jurisdiction by registered post.
One access would be set up with Mr [X] and the social work team would see how it went before planning further access appointments.
An Article 17 enquiry would take place at the Interim Care Order extension in 29 days.