High Court grants order allowing CFA to place vulnerable teen in special care unit

High court reporters

The High Court has made orders allowing the Child and Family Agency (CFA) to place an at-risk girl who has spent over two years in an inappropriate psychiatric facility into a special care unit for troubled teens.

At the High Court on Tuesday, Mr Justice Rory Mulcahy said he was satisfied to grant the orders sought by CFA, represented in the proceedings by Paul Gunning Bl, so the girl can be provided with the supports and services she requires.

Counsel said the highly vulnerable teen had regularly tried to harm herself and has made multiple suicide attempts.

Mr Gunning said his client was seeking to have the girl place in a special care unit as she is "not safe in the community," and she was not at risk of harm.

The special care application will be mentioned before the courts later this month.

The teen, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has been awaiting a place in special care since July, but has spent a lengthy period detained at a psychiatric unit despite the fact she does not have a mental disorder.

Despite the unsuitability of the facility, those in charge of her treatment had said she should not be released into the community or be allowed return home for her own safety.

Over two years ago, the girl had availed of outpatient facilities provided by Child Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) before becoming an in-patient at the psychiatric units under the Mental Health Acts.

Lawyers representing the HSE, the girl's court-appointed legal guardian, and her mother had argued before several judges, including High Court President Mr Justice David Barniville, that she was at risk of suffering long-term harm if she remained in the unit any longer. She needed to be moved to a special care unit, it was argued.

The CFA accepted the teenager meets the criteria for a place at a secure special care unit, but it was unable to move to an appropriate setting due to a lack of a place for her.

As a result, the agency had on several occasions asked the courts to continue her detention at the psychiatric unit over fears for her life if she was to be released.

Following the application, Ciaran Craven SC, instructed by Prospect Law solicitors, for the girl's mother, said separate judicial review proceedings taken against the CFA on the girl's behalf over the agency's alleged failure to comply with its statutory obligations to provide her with a special care placement could be adjourned to a date in new legal year.

Counsel said that while parts of those proceedings are now "moot" or pointless now that the special care orders have been made, certain less urgent aspects of that action, including a claim for damages, remain.

The remaining arguments will be return before the court when the new legal year commences in October.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can freephone the Samaritans 24 hours a day for confidential support at i or email i

Alternatively, the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at i

In the case of an emergency, or if you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self-harm, dial 999/112.