A COURT appointed guardian has been assigned to a teenager facing four counts of rape, following a disagreement over legal representation at the local court.
The youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is charged with committing the offences in the midlands in 2009. He is currently under the care of the HSE.
A disagreement has arisen between the boy’s parents as to the best legal representation for their son, who Judge Catherine Staines described as suffering from an intellectual difficulty. Local solicitor, Ms Josephine Fitzpatrick has been appointed by the boy’s mother to represent him, while his father has recruited the services of Mr John Devane of Limerick.
At last week’s court, Mr Devane told Judge Catherine Staines that he “vehemently” opposed Ms Fitzpatrick’s involvement in the case.
“The HSE haven’t bothered to instruct a solicitor, or have one present. I was present at all times and when legal aid was applied for by (the boy’s father), I was assigned. There are very real legal issues surrounding this,” he said.
Mr Devane went on to say that the HSE have deemed him “an inappropriate person” to deal with the case, an assertion he took exception to as he described himself as “a solicitor in good standing in this country”.
Claiming that the boy’s father was not contacted on the case “until the eleventh hour”, Mr Devane asked Judge Staines to put the case back so he could stay on record. Mr Devane said that his client’s father wants to have access to the entire file held by the HSE on his son, because of an “abject lack of instruction”. He said that he needs to see the HSE file in order to properly defend the boy.
Declaring that she cannot order a third party disclosure, Judge Staines said that both Mr Devane and Ms Fitzpatrick could equally defend the youth.
“If he’s in the care of the HSE, it should be the HSE who makes the decision,” she said.
“If the HSE have his best interests at heart,” retorted Mr Devane.
In her submissions to Judge Staines, Ms Fitzpatrick said she had made contact with a representative of the charity Barnardos who has expertise in the area of the allegations made. Ms Fitzpatrick suggested that the representative be appointed the boy’s guardian ad litem (a guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests of children or incompetent persons).
“What’s important here is the voice of the child,” ruled Judge Staines, appointing the guardian to speak on the youth’s behalf. The guardian will consult with both the youth and his parents to determine the best course for him. The judge said that the book of evidence already served on the youth should remain with the HSE and neither the solicitors nor the gardaí are allowed to speak to him until a decision has been finalised.
The matter has now been put back to October 26.