A JUDGE has accused the Department of Children and the HSE of playing “pass the parcel” with an out-of-control youth, who went missing over the weekend.
Limerick Court was told the 16-year-old absconded from University Hospital, Limerick in the early hours of Sunday morning - just hours after he was placed in the care of the HSE having been released on bail.
A bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of the boy, who faces a number of charges, including criminal damage, burglary and handling stolen property,
Last week, Judge Eugene O’Kelly remanded the youth in custody but when gardai brought him to Oberstown House in Dublin he was turned away as there was no place available for him.
The youth was detained at Henry Street garda station last Thursday night and at University Hospital, Limerick the following night after he was again refused entry to Oberstown on both days.
Yesterday, Tony O’Donovan, principal officer with the Department of Children told the court there is no place at present to detain the youth in accordance with the court order.
He said there are only 36 remand beds for young male offenders in the country and that it is not known when one will become available again.
Mr O’Donovan said plans are in place to increase the number of available beds but that this is likely to take a number of months.
In his evidence Tim Hanly, the HSE’s Children in Care manager for Limerick, told the court the youth he believes the youth “needs to be in preventative custody”.
He said the boy went missing from University Hospital Limerick in the early hours of Sunday after he was taken there by gardai when efforts to place him in the care of a private foster care agency failed.
He said there is no weekend service for the provision of social workers and the protocol is for youths to placed in the care of a private foster agency.
However, the agency, he said, was “not in a position” to take the youth at the weekend, which is why he was brought to University Hospital, Limerick from where he absconded.
Mr Hanly added that once the youth is located an application will be made to have him placed in special care, at a secure HSE facility.