A child with a mental age of a five-year-old found wandering in Lisburn during the early hours turned on police when they tried to take her home, a court was told yesterday.
It emerged this has occurred numerous times lately, but social services continue to place the girl back at her family home, as they cannot source alternative accommodation.
A children's home has been ruled out due to concerns over sex abuse and drug fears.
The girl, who cannot be identified due to her age, was arrested at 4.30am on April 8 after being spotted by police officers, one of whom she kicked when they tried to reason with her. Once inside the police vehicle she broke a door handle, then grabbed an officer's arm, twisting the skin.
Due to coronavirus restrictions she was not present at Craigavon Magistrates Court, which heard she was in the Juvenile Justice Unit (JJU). Difficulties have arisen in finding suitable accommodation, in part due to the health emergency. Police opposed bail given that after a recent similar incident when the girl was released to a social services-approved address, but she later returned home.
An officer said: "Police have grave concerns. There is no parental control. We are seeking a remand to a secure unit for her own protection and full assessment. This is an extremely vulnerable girl with the mental capacity of a five-year-old. There is serious risk to her safety."
A defence lawyer said: "This is one of the most vulnerable individuals I have ever represented and I understand objections to bail. There was no offending before February, but then she began going out and either ringing police herself or coming to their attention. This has resulted in multiple arrests, but in the last four she hasn't been interviewed as officers believe her intelligence levels are so low."
He accepted the girl "sneaked out" and on coming to police attention reacted badly. It was pointed out after each release social services conduct a review, but she is returned home as "they believe this is still the best place. There is nowhere else available and social services fall back on the family home".
While substance abuse does not feature, the lawyer said the girl "has issues, but no one can get to the bottom of them. The JJU is not suitable, nor is a children's home due to concerns of child-to-child sexual abuse and drugs misuse. So, she is returned to the family home".
Stressing social services are required to source a residence, the defence added he is considering legal action "to compel the (health) trust to place her in secure accommodation".
Describing the matter as "a very complicated picture", District Judge Michael Ranaghan said: "She needs properly assessed and social services cannot do what they need to at this time. I can't think of anything else to protect her or police dealing with her."
He ordered the girl to be released again to an address approved by social services.