Home-alone 17-year-old has baby taken into care after arrest for stealing groceries

By Tom Tuite

Tusla is to carry out a full welfare assessment of the family of a teenage girl whose baby was taken into care after her arrest for stealing groceries and claims she was living in a boarded-up house in Dublin.

Dublin Children’s Court heard the home-alone 17-year-old girl’s parents, who are non-nationals, were out of the country and she claimed she had been living in the abandoned house.

Judge John O’Connor said today the girl’s history of offending indicated possible attachment issues or “something organised in relation to it” that she was being “sent out” by others to commit these offences.

“I would like to get to the bottom of this. Why is a 17-year-old girl with a baby repeatedly involved in theft?” he said.

The girl, who cannot be named because she is a minor, pleaded guilty today to stealing food worth €38 from a shop on a date in June.

After concerns were raised for her welfare, Judge John O’Connor had asked Tusla Child and Family Agency to attend the proceedings when they resumed at the Dublin Children’s Court today.

The teen, who was born in Ireland, was arrested on Tuesday at a shopping centre in Dublin on foot of a bench warrant issued earlier this month when she failed to appear in court.

Gardaí invoked Section 12 of the Childcare Act allowing the girl’s baby to be removed from her and placed in temporary emergency care.

Attempts were made to contact her parents but they were not in the country, Judge O’Connor heard.

The girl, who did not require an interpreter, claimed she had been staying at a house in the city’s north-side. The judge said her father was known to the court from previous cases.

Garda Sergeant Seamus Treacy told the court that address was “is boarded up” and as far as he was concerned the girl was no longer residing there.

She had given that address four times and was caught there following the theft incident, the court heard.

The sergeant was satisfied she was now staying with people claiming to be relatives at another address in Dublin.

However, he said that previously there had been limited engagement from the family in relation to the Probation Service and the sergeant remained concerned she was a flight risk.

The judge has said he could not be certain about the couple’s relationship with the girl but the court has ordered her to reside with them.

Tusla solicitor Shane Reynolds told the court a full assessment of the family will be carried out.

The girl had six prior criminal convictions for theft offences.

Her barrister Damian McKeone said the girl was sorry for causing hassle and her ultimate objective was to get her child back.

Her parents had to leave Ireland as a result of difficulties involving her siblings, however, the girl’s father planned to return.

The girl had failed to attend court on eight previous occasions. She spoke briefly to confirm she was pleading guilty.

Judge O’Connor ordered a probation report and adjourned the case for three weeks. He told her that he was not going to put her into detention but she needed to turn up for her court cases otherwise she was making it “very difficult”.



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