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Judge and defence barrister clash as ‘out of control’ youth refused bail

Dungannon Court

A judge has taken the unusual step of remanding a youth in custody after deeming her “out-of-control” which came amidst a clash with defence counsel.

The youth, who cannot be identified due to her age, is charged with, damaging furniture in the care facility she resides in and assaulting two female staff members, assaulting police, resisting arrest, using disorderly behaviour and damaging a fire extinguisher in a hospital, and attempting to damage a PSNI vehicle.

Offending allegedly occurred on June 2.

There is also a further charge of incitement to hatred by using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour intending thereby to stir up hatred or arouse fear on dates between April 7 and June 2.

A police officer, aware of the facts of the case, told Dungannon Magistrates’ Court all charges could be connected.

He explained concerns were initially raised when the youth spoke to another child stating: “What’s up n****r”.

This occurred on the back of an incident when the youth became aggressive with staff in her care facility.

On arrival, police observed damage, including broken wood and glass, and learned she had thrown items at staff who were put left in fear.

When staff took the youth to hospital due to her conduct she proceeded to damage a fire extinguisher and lighting before managing to get onto the roof, threatening to jump off, before medical staff coaxed her down

It emerged on May 25 she seriously assaulted a staff member by repeatedly punching them around the head, causing two black eyes.

The following day she damaged a door, kicked a window out and cannabis was found in her room.

On June 1, staff located her on the roof of a shop and again had to coax her down.

“The risks are formed from the harm she poses to herself and others,” said the officer.

“Staff now have concerns on managing the risks posed. (Youth’s) behaviour has escalated from March 14 when she’s gone missing six times.

“During one occasion she got to Dungannon and met with an adult female who is being served an Abduction Warning due to the risks of access to alcohol, drugs and males along with concerns around Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).”

Defence counsel intervened stating: “The objection is predicated on perceived risk to herself. These instances weren’t related to the charges before the court. It’s fundamentally inappropriate to use matters not criminal in nature to object to or refuse bail.”

Judge Magill referenced CSE, abduction, alcohol and drug abuse but the defence said: “Unpleasant as it may seem, these are part-and-parcel of the experiences of many youths in care and she is certainly not the only one where those risks are prevalent.”

Judge Magill replied: “The conduct she’s before the court for involves extensive criminal damage, assaults, and incitement. This is towards the top of the scale.”

The defence contended she hasn’t been convicted of anything, has no criminal record, and entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Judge Magill added: “There are 12 Youth Conference Orders for separate offending including burglary, numerous assaults, thefts, criminal damage, arson, harassment and threats to kill. While all diverted, they wouldn’t have been if she hadn’t committed them.”

The defence insisted the youth is “not at the threshold where she is no longer being dealt with by diversions.

“In terms of risk, there are mechanisms open to the (Health) Trust such as secure accommodation. That hasn’t been done. Young people in the care system can sometimes present with certain difficulties and challenges. As serious and displeasing as these charges may be, she’s unlikely to be given a custodial sentence.”

Judge Magill remarked: “I don’t want to hear anymore. She’s out-of-control. Bail is refused.”

The youth will appear again by video-link next month.

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