Armed police response officers were called to an incident in which a 12-year-old boy brandishing a knife had jumped on the bonnet of a PSNI car, a court has heard.
Details emerged at a bail application at Dungannon Youth Court, which heard the child “is the youngest resident, by a very wide margin” in the facility where he is currently held.
Last week the child, who cannot be identified, was charged with attempted robbery, burglary and possessing a weapon, relating to two offences in Cookstown on April 7.
He attempted to rob an off-licence on the afternoon in question, with a hood pulled over his head, the court heard. Brandishing a claw hammer, he threatened the female assistant, while demanding cash, but she managed to activate an alarm and the child fled.
Later that night, another business was targeted. Officers located the child at the scene, where he admitted gaining entry by smashing a glass panel.
Once inside, he hurled a fire extinguisher through a door and set about looking for cash.
The child’s father was contacted and met with police at Dungannon Station. It was agreed the boy would be released into his father’s care for interview at a later date.
They left the station but within minutes the father returned, stating his son had jumped from the moving car and fled. The father refused to take his son back telling officers: “He’s your problem.”
The child was found hiding in a car park and accepted the offences claiming he wanted money for “drugs and a new tracksuit”.
Last week, police opposed bail due to a likelihood of re-offending and a recent escalation in criminality.
At that hearing, District Judge John Meehan criticised Social Services for not attending and, left with no choice, ordered the child be held in custody.
A further bail application was mounted on the basis a social worker attend, but police remained opposed to his release.
An officer said matters had escalated since September 2017, starting with the boy trashing £5,000 worth of hospital equipment.
While a decision was taken not to prosecute, the officer said social workers called at the child’s home and he fled, becoming a missing person.
Later that night, he was located in Belfast with his sister and her partner.
Police believed he had consumed drugs and he was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast where the damage occurred.
He is also accused of damaging property at his school, overturning tables and using knives to cut holes in doors.
A knife was also presented during an incident at his home in February, when he objected to the presence of police, and jumped on the bonnet of their car.
Armed response officers were called to the scene, as police officers could not get out of their vehicle while the child was brandishing the knife.
The officer at yesterday’s hearing said: “Our view on bail has not changed.”
A social worker explained the child’s health trust had input and there was intensive support. There were some difficulties settling in but he worked well with intensive therapy.
Judge Meehan said: “There is a full care order which has fallen spectacularly apart. Is it an issue (the child) has been exposed to significant dangers?”
The social worker replied that a therapy programme was completed in March and the therapist felt the child had engaged “extremely well”.
Judge Meehan asked: “How can that be going by the highly violent activity?” The social worker said: “There were periods when (the boy) was well settled, but we have become increasingly concerned. We felt he was best placed with his father.”
However, she accepted she had not been aware that the father had told police he was their problem, after the child jumped from the moving car.
She also accepted the imminent review is likely to recommend the child does not reside with his father, and the health trust would be tasked with examining other options.
Judge Meehan said: “This is a catastrophic story of increasing high violence and high cost damage. He’s only 12. He is exposed to significant risk.”
The social worker repeated her view there had been a settled period and said a Harbouring Notice is to be sought, banning the child’s sibling and her partner from any contact, as it is believed they are providing him with drugs.
She said: “The Trust would prefer (the child) is returned to his father, with us attending on a daily basis.” Regarding the child’s exposure to risk, the social worker conceded: “I cannot give any guarantees we would be able to keep him safe.”
Judge Meehan said: “The extraordinary feature which dominates is the age of 12. Then again, this child has engaged in violent offending, who threatened a female with a weapon and equipped himself with knives.”
He ruled the child must remain detained, stating: “I asked for Social Services to see whether to release (the child) into a more appropriate placement.
“I accept work is still ongoing, but to be told the proposal is to return this child to his father, pending a review, is something less than this court hoped for.
“The only option is 24/7 continuous supervision with someone who does not say, ‘It’s not my problem’.”