Belfast Telegraph

13-year-old boy led into courtroom dock in handcuffs

By Lesley Houston and Chris Kilpatrick

A 13-year-old boy was led into a courtroom dock in handcuffs after staff at a children's home called police over an altercation about him going to bed.

A judge ordered guards to remove the cuffs immediately when the child was brought before Newtownards Magistrates Court yesterday morning.

District Judge Amanda Brady said the sight of the child in the constraints was "appalling" and "disturbing".

A member of Stormont's powerful Justice Committee last night called for an investigation into the circumstances of the case.

The child, who cannot be named, was brought to court for allegedly breaching the rules of the children's home.

The court heard from a police officer that staff at the Lakewood Centre in Bangor had been trying to get the child to bed by a certain time and when he resisted the police were called.

As the child was brought into the dock, Judge Brady told the court guard to remove the handcuffs. "This is absolutely appalling," she said. "He should never have been brought here."

The judge continued: "I find this very disturbing," adding, "there may be issues arising from this."

The Lakewood care facility is run by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust.

A spokeswoman for the trust told the Belfast Telegraph: "The South Eastern HSC Trust can confirm that there was a serious incident last night in Lakewood which involved a young person.

"Staff followed appropriate procedures and notified the PSNI."

The child was under bail conditions which included complying with all the orders and requests of staff at the home.

Stewart Dickson, an Alliance MLA and member of the Justice Committee, said he was shocked.

"On the face of it it does not look good and certainly the judge's reaction is what you would expect most normal people's to be," he said. "If we are being told the reason the child was arrested was for not going to bed at a children's home it seems very bizarre.

"I'd have thought any judge seeing a child in handcuffs should have been pre-warned by social services."

Lakewood is one of Northern Ireland's main care homes for children and young people.

Many of the children are troubled with a complex range of needs. As the child left the court, the judge told him: "It will help yourself if you did what you were told to do."

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "Police received a report from staff at a secure centre in the Bangor area on the evening of Tuesday, September 23 about a resident breaching bail conditions.

"Police arrested the 13-year old-boy in relation to breach of bail and he was taken to Newtownards Magistrates Court as appropriate."

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