Court permits removal of 'extremely vulnerable' woman from family home

It is believed the woman, who is in her 20s, may have an intellectual disability, although she has never received a diagnosis.
Court permits removal of 'extremely vulnerable' woman from family home

High Court reporters

The High Court has granted orders permitting the Garda-assisted removal of an “extremely vulnerable” woman from her family home for medical and psychiatric assessments amid serious concerns for her safety and welfare.

It is believed the woman, who is in her 20s, may have an intellectual disability, although she has never received a diagnosis.

Patricia Hill BL, for the Health Service Executive (HSE), the applicant, said concerns were raised recently in relation to trauma in the family home. This led to the recent removal of two children from the house on foot of court orders obtained by Tusla- the Child and Family Agency.

The woman’s mother was recently admitted to hospital, with assistance from gardaí, the court heard.

Ms Hill asked for various orders that would enable doctors to medically and psychiatrically assess the woman, including to see if she has an intellectual disability.

In a sworn statement, a principal social worker said she has “serious concerns for the safety and welfare” of the young woman left at the family home. Currently, the woman lives in the house with her father and her brother, and she reportedly left school at a young age.

'Extremely vulnerable'

She said her colleague who removed the children noticed that the woman was in a distressed and very neglected state, with matted hair. She said she believes she is "extremely vulnerable".

A Garda chief superintendent advised social workers only to attend the house when accompanied by four Garda members. The social worker said she attempted such a visit recently, but was refused entry by someone believed to be the woman’s brother. She said he became “very aggressive” and was distressed speaking about when gardaí removed the children.

The social worker said she followed up with the woman’s family doctors, neither of whom had seen her physically. The woman switched GPs a decade ago.

This doctor has only managed to speak to the woman over the phone, and she could hear her father “prompting” her with answers in the background, she said.

The GP said she was extremely concerned for the young woman’s mother and, given the reported series issues and control in the home, she would also be very concerned for the young woman, said the social worker.

The young woman had been admitted to hospital a number of years ago, and it was noted there that she had an intellectual disability, she said. The social worker understands that while she was in hospital the young woman was never left alone and was always accompanied by her mother or father.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland expressed concern that the woman’s forcible removal from her home will “undoubtedly be very traumatic” for her as she seems to have lived an “extremely isolated” life.

However, having considered other less “draconian” ways of achieving the aims, she came to the conclusion that the orders sought entailed the “least restrictive” methods.

Ms Justice Hyland made various orders on an ex-parte basis (only the HSE was represented), including one allowing gardaí to assist with the removal of the woman from her home and her transfer to hospital. It was stipulated that they may use such minimal force and restraint as is necessary to carry out the transfer.

The orders also permit the hospital to carry out medical and psychiatric checks and to prevent the woman from leaving.

The judge appointed a guardian ad litem to protect the woman’s interests and adjourned the matter to next week.

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