23 Jan 2022

Offaly youth living in 'subhuman' conditions pleads guilty to assault

Offaly youth living in 'subhuman' conditions pleads guilty to assault

Offaly youth living in 'subhuman' conditions pleads guilty to assault

A young Offaly man is living in “subhuman” conditions while suitable accommodation is being sought for him, Tullamore District Court heard.

Nineteen-year-old Ceilim Ryan is staying in a caravan at Scurragh, Birr with no access to sanitation facilities or electricity and this is partly a cause of his criminal offending, Judge Catherine Staines said.

The youth, who has been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) pleaded guilty to assaulting a staff member at Tesco in Birr, breaching the peace at the store and causing damage to a cell door in Birr Garda Station.

Sergeant James O'Sullivan said on September 16 last year he assaulted a man and became abusive at Tesco when he was asked to leave because he was not wearing a mask.

The damage to the cell door, which was done with handcuffs, occurred on October 17, 2020 and Mr Ryan was accused of public order offences in Bulfin Park on the same date.

Mr Ryan is also before the court in relation to other matters and a probation report was considered by Judge Staines when he appeared before her last week.

Suzanne Dooner, BL, for the accused, said the youth was still living in the caravan but enquiries had been made for alternative accommodation.

Judge Staines said the most recent probation report indicated Mr Ryan's accommodation status remained unresolved but he had been placed on the Offaly County Council housing list.

The report said his accommodation in the caravan was “subhuman in standard” and the judge remarked: “It's extremely worrying in the context of the risk in further offending.”

Lourda Giles, an official with the County Council, told the court that following Mr Ryan's approval onto the housing list on May 14 last, the local authority's housing section contacted three emergency B&Bs but they all declined to take him.

The homeless hostel in Longford had no vacancy and Mr Ryan was referred to two other emergency accommodation providers in Tullamore, Lanello and RSS, but neither had vacancies.

When a place becomes available he will be assessed, said Ms Giles, adding that the council had contacted Mr Ryan's mother, Fiona O'Shea, in relation to a voucher towards the cost of B&B accommodation which they could source themselves but it was declined.

Ms Giles said a bed was available in a homeless hostel in Gardiner Street, Dublin but it was refused. Contact was also made with Midlands Simon but it had a waiting list too.

Ms Giles said the Dublin hostel was still available, as was the B&B voucher.

Judge Staines told the witness that there was a duty on the council to provide housing. “It's simply not good enough to say there's no places,” she remarked.

She said Mr Ryan had a lot of psychiatric difficulties and those, along with his homelessness, had led to him “ending up in this court”.

She said he had some supports in Offaly but if he had to go to Dublin he would be completely alone.

Ms Giles said very few places were available but she did reveal that refurbishment works at Mr Ryan's original home at 25 Scurragh, which had been provided by the council, would be complete this week, it was hoped.

A three-bedroom property, it had been damaged by a fire, said the witness.

Ms O'Shea, who told the court she was in emergency accommodation in a different location from the accused, said the council were “well aware” of the breakdown in her family since 2019 and it was “not viable” for Ceilim Ryan to live in the council house in Scurragh because of his ODD.

She said the situation was having a significant effect on him and all of the family.

Judge Staines said she had every sympathy for Ms O'Shea but moving into the house for a period when it is ready might be the only option if being homeless was the other choice.

Ms O'Shea said she had previously been asked to get a barring order against her son and now the council wanted him to live with her.

The family were trying to work through the situation as best they could but Ceilim's behaviour had a significant effect on all the family, mentally, physically and emotionally.

She also said that when a request was made to place the caravan into her yard she was told she would be evicted.

The court also heard that the accommodation in which Ms O'Shea was staying would not accommodate the accused.

When Judge Staines asked if the caravan could be improved Ms Giles said having a caravan present is a breach of the tenancy agreement.

Mr Ryan told the court himself that “every second” residence in Scurragh had a caravan and Ms Giles said they would all be in breach of tenancy.

Ms Dooner said the defendant had been given a mentor by the Le Cheile youth justice support service and he was engaging well.

Judge Staines noted that he had no previous convictions and was in a very precarious position with his living arrangements.
She accepted that because of his diagnosis he would not be able to live in his mother's house full-time but saw no reason why he could not have access to it for sanitation facilities when it is ready, pending a proper placement for him.

The judge placed him on probation on his own bond of €100 on condition he attend all appointments with the Probation Service and his mentor.

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