Health Service Executive -v- LW & anor (Care Order - Sexual Abuse)

CourtDistrict Court (Ireland)
JudgeHorgan P.
Judgment Date05 February 2012
Neutral Citation[2012] IEDC 4
Case OutcomeApproved
Date05 February 2012
[2012] IEDC 4
5 February 2012
The Issues
1. This c ase c oncerns an applicat ion for a Care Order in respect of a fourteen month old child (Child 5), who came into the care of
the HSE on 25 Oct ober 2010, immediately following her birth.
2. An Emergency Care Order was granted in respect of t he infant on 25 Oct ober 2010 in circumstances whereby it became c lear to
the HSE and An Garda Síochána that the parent s had four older children placed in care in Country 1 sinc e 2004.
3. The reason f or the making of such orders in Country 1’s Court was a f inding of child abuse and neglect — failing to provide a safe
and stimulating home environment, failing to meet the children’s basic needs including emotional warmth, exposing the children to
domestic violence, and t he c hildren’s sexualised behaviours. Child 1 was ret urned home to t he c are of the parents, much to t he
criticism of the Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”), as detailed in the Book One C 1-32 supplied to t he Court. Following the report of the
Psychologist, s he was ultimately taken into Loc al Authority c are having spent almost a yea r with her parents aft er her siblings came
into care in August 2004.
4. An Interim Injunction was made by Judge C on 4 July 2006 prohibiting contac t by either of the parents with Child 1 and appointing
a Guardian for the children in respect of the procee dings. This was extended by Judge N on 27 July 2006. Ultimately, the children
were eac h ‘freed for adoption’ by the courts in Country 1.
5. Allegations of serious cont act sexual abuse were made by three of the c hildren in the course of t herapeutic at tachment sessions
undertaken with three of the c hildren and their prospect ive adoptive parent s.
6. The Respondent parents , though separate ly represented in these proc eedings, are united in their vehement opposition to t heir
daughter, Child 5, being taken into the long term care of the HSE. Through their respec tive legal teams, they express the wish t o be
allowed an opportunity to parent their daughter. They deny allegations of physic al or sexual abuse in respect of their children in the
context of thes e proceedings. T hey indicated t hat t hey were neve r afforded the opportunity to c hallenge the allegations of c ontact
child sexual abuse which emerged after their other c hildren (Child 1, Child 2, Child 3, and Child 4) were taken into c are and freed for
adoption. The f act that allegations had been made by Child 2, 3, and 4 was only put t o them in 2010. Prior to the emergence of suc h
allegations, a different Loc al Authority was initially prepared to c onsider the possibility of allowing them an opportunity to parent this
child with a high level of monitoring pending further consideration of the reports from the previous proceedings and an invest igation of
the emerging information regarding sexual abuse. Ultimately, howe ver, the c ore assessment of the soc ial worker discounted this
potential and recommended the removal of the child at birth. T hey believe t hat t he decision-making process undertaken by the Loc al
Authority in Country 1 was unfair t o them as they were only provided with the det ail conc erning the allegations of cont act sexual
abuse and the c hildren’s attac hment difficulties to t heir adoptive parents by let ter on 13 Septe mber 2010.
7. Through their legal representatives, t he Respondents indicated that t hey will co- operate w ith the HSE in matters relating to t he
welfare of Child 5 and wanted a n opportunity to e stablish that they had made sufficient progress in order to parent her if nece ssary
under supervision of the HSE.
8. Interim Care Orders have been made since Oc tober 2010 with the consent and co- operation of t he parents and t hey have been
afforded supervised acc ess to Child 5 three times per week. It is ac knowledged that t he parents have, at a ll times, ac ted co-
operatively with t he HSE and participated in a risk assessment undertaken by t he HSE Social Work Team and a risk assessment
undertaken by the HSE’s forensic soc ial worker.
9. A co mprehensive booklet of ac cess reports also furnished to t he Court outlined that each of the parent s has ac ted and behave d in
a warm and caring way in respect of Child 5 during supervised ac cess. Evidence of a secure se condary at tac hment t o them is
conc eded by the HSE and the GAL. Some concerning issues, which arose on three separate occ asions and which oc curred outside of
acc ess time, were resolved fo llowing dialogue with the parent s and the A cc ess Centre Manager who gave evidence acc epted that t he
explanation proffered by the parents was not unreasonable.
10. The HSE risk assessment does not f avour family reunification, as the forensic social worker who has an expertise in sexual abuse
assessment found there t o be a high risk of future se xually harmful behaviour by the parents in this c ase. The parents dispute t his
finding and have sought to s ecure an independent psyc hological assessment more favourable to family reunification. The possibility of
securing such a ‘second opinion’ was mooted in May of 2011 but t he assessment was only commenced in late November 2011 and has
not been c ompleted at the date of the c ommencement of t hese proceedings. A psychotherapist, has partially assessed Child 5’s
mother but has not been in a pos ition to formulate an assessment outc ome and conc lusion or provide a Final Report to Court in
respect of the mother. He has not been formally requested to undertake an asse ssment of Child 5’s father. He has given evidence in
relation to his preliminary partial assessment. There is no alternative professional evidence adduc ed by or on behalf of e ither parent.
Neither parent has given evidence to t he Court but t heir position has been set out by their respective legal counsel.
11. The parents of Child 5 are a married couple since 2007 but have resided toget her for some fifteen years. It is a matter of fact
that t heir relationship between the y ears 1997 and 2004 was marred with episodes of domestic violence. T he mother gave birth to
five children in total. Child 5’s father is t he father of the four youngest children. The mother was under sixteen when she gave birth to

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