traveller high court care camp woman
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A vulnerable intellectually disabled woman was removed by gardaí in a filthy, distressed and apparently drugged state from a Traveller camp several days after she left a private care facility, the High Court has heard.
A young man said in evidence that he had consensual sex with the woman, whose mental age is about 10, but that he had not raped or harmed her and is in love with her. He said he had a number of psychiatric conditions.
In line with court orders, the man said he would not contact the woman in any way. He wanted to tell her parents he was sorry and rejected her father’s description of him as a “monster”.
The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said the woman underwent a “terrifying ordeal” and her parents endured a “nightmare”.
The facts of the case were “as shocking as they are extraordinary” and are now subject of a HSE investigation.
A HSE officer agreed the evidence was “alarming” and said she expected its investigation to conclude quickly.
The court heard the young woman, on her removal from the site last week, had torn leggings and no underwear. She appeared to have faeces on the back of her shirt.
The court heard her speech was slurred and it seemed she had not taken her prescribed medication and that other drugs or agents had given rise to her condition.
The woman, who is in her 20s, was placed in the private facility some years ago because her disabilities meant she could not be cared for at home.
She left the premises on April 29th and returned there with the man on May 1st to collect her allowance when she was again permitted leave “without any alarm bells being rung”, the judge said.
Her parents were abroad on business from April 29th and were contacted that day by the premises to say their daughter had left it but she was being monitored and they should not contact her as it was expected she would return.
The parents’ increasing concerns led to them contacting gardaí on May 3rd when they returned home.
On May 9th, the HSE indicated to an emergency sitting of the High Court that it would seek to have her made a ward of court and secured orders permitting gardaí to remove her from the site and return her to the private facility.
Her parents expressed a range of concerns about the facility’s handling of the situation and her father said they had no confidence in its ability to keep their daughter safe and do not want her to stay there.
He said the last thing his daughter said to him before initially going there was: “Daddy, will I be ok?”
“I said, Yes, I promise you . . . How can she believe me again?”
There should have been procedures not to let a person with special needs “just walk away”, he said. His daughter had no filter for danger and would walk away with anyone who approaches her, he said.
Mr Justice Kelly, who noted the court was awaiting a report from the private facility about what happened, said the HSE evidence was the woman must remain there in the short term because no alternative was immediately available. He made orders aimed at ensuring she would be adequately supervised and safe pending various assessments.
A HSE official said efforts were continuing to find an alternative suitable placement in a different private facility but assessments had to be carried out first.
The judge said the woman’s parents are “decent people” who, having handed over custody of their daughter to a third party, understandably felt badly let down.
Noting evidence of “multiple breaches” of the court’s orders restraining the young man contacting the woman or her parents, plus evidence money was sought from the parents, he warned there would be consequences if there were further breaches.
The woman remained very distressed and confused and believed in a childlike way that she loved the man but was also afraid of him, her court-appointed guardian said. The woman had asked for return of a soft toy and other personal effects and hoped he would get treatment for various issues.
The man said he had given the soft toy to her mother, did not have the other effects and denied breaches of the court orders.