Belfast Telegraph

Police 'mistakenly told that missing girl (12) was suicidal'

The girl appeared before Belfast High Court on Tuesday
The girl appeared before Belfast High Court on Tuesday

By Alan Erwin

Police were mistakenly informed that a 12-year-old girl who went missing from a children's home was suicidal, the High Court has heard.

Concerns for the girl's safety centred on a note found in her belongings and her reaction to the death of a close friend.

But according to a manager at the home in Co Down the report to the PSNI may have been an overreaction.

"I do believe the member of staff made an error of judgment," he said.

"At no time have (other) staff felt that she was suicidal."

The girl, who cannot be identified, faces charges of assault on police, attempted criminal damage to a PSNI car and resisting police over an incident last month.

She had been released on bail to stay at the children's home under the terms of a plan drawn up to ensure her safety.

Prosecution counsel Conor Maguire said a week later she allegedly smashed up a room at the facility and left the site.

The girl was arrested after being found trying to get a train to Belfast, the court heard.

Mr Maguire said staff at the home had alerted police, claiming she was suicidal.

He also contended that a note found among the girl's possessions five days previously suggested a risk of self-harm.

It allegedly stated: "Sorry for doing this, I just can't take it any more. Mummy I love you."

However, the manager at the home insisted it was an historic note more associated with her friend's death.

He reiterated the view expressed by another representative from the relevant trust, based on expert assessments, that the girl does not pose a risk to herself.

A senior social worker told the court the incident in the home occurred during an emotionally charged period following the friend's funeral.

"It's very clear that she was not suicidal," the social worker said.

"The overall assessment is that she is not a child displaying thoughts of life being not worth living, and certainly has no intent on self-harming behaviour."

Citing the evidence and assurances given about the girl's safety, Mr Justice Huddleston granted bail for her to return to the children's home.

Pledging to review the case next week, he said: "Everyone is engaged in what is for her best interests. That is something that needs to be monitored."

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