Judge criticises health trusts

A judge has criticised health trusts in Northern Ireland for not providing enough secure accomodation.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comments as he adjourned a bail application for a 15-year-old boy accused of attempted rape.

The teen, who cannot be named because of his age, is further charged with sexual assault, kidnap, threats to kill, assault and false

The charges relate to an alleged incident in the Creggan area on March 18, when a 13-year-old girl was dragged from a bus stop.

Police opposed bail and the court was told the alleged injured party’s parents have concerns about the defendant residing at an address in the city.

Defence solicitor Elaine Kirk said the 15-year-old is vulnerable and they have been unable to get a bed for him in secure accomodation.

She said there was a proposed bail address with a family member in the city and a bail support package would be provided by the Youth Justice Agency.

Ms Kirk added that her client could be banned from certain areas of the city.

District Judge Barney McElholm said if the 15-year-old was released on bail to the proposed address, the alleged injured party would be ‘looking over her shoulder all the time’.

“This is an extremely traumatic incident for the injured party she has every right to expect the court, acting on behalf of the community, to protect her even from the potential risk of meeting him”, the judge

He added he was not prepared to put the alleged injured party at risk of that.

Judge McElholm said the judiciary had warned the trusts ‘years ago’ that they were not building a big enough facility for secure beds.

He told the court: “I really think this is a case where the trust should be doing everything in their power to get a bed in a secure accomodation.

“It really is quite disgraceful, there is never enough beds.”

The bail application was adjourned and the youth will appear in court again later this month.