Child in Northern Ireland’s care system had consumed ‘near lethal’ cocktail of drugs and alcohol

The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People has expressed “deep concern” after being made aware of a child within the care system who was left unresponsive, having consumed a near lethal cocktail of drugs and alcohol.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 7:36 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 7:37 am

The boy, who is subject to full care, is currently on bail for numerous offences, of which the drugs and alcohol episode put him in breach.

Among the mix of drugs were two of the most dangerous – Ecstasy and LSD.

The third was Ketamine, a Class B drug, but potentially hazardous when combined with other drugs or alcohol.

The accused, who cannot be identified because of his age, currently resides in a children’s home, where police found him on his hands and knees, vomiting. A special court sitting heard the boy is on bail for nine separate criminal incidents stretching back to March 24, and there have been 13 breaches of bail, to date.

Staff in the children’s home alerted police on the evening of November 26 as they believed he had consumed alcohol in breach of bail terms, where officers found him vomiting. Due to the concern over his level of intoxication, officers took the boy to hospital, but while on the way he: “Became unresponsive and appeared to be in and out of consciousness. He was foaming at the mouth, his eyes were rolling backwards, and his lower jaw appeared to be in spasm.”

On arrival at hospital, the boy said he had consumed MDMA, Ketamine and Acid, as well as bottles of vodka and Buckfast mixed together.

Following assessment, he was discharged into police custody the following morning, and after court, released back to the children’s home.

On being made aware of the incident, the Commissioner for Children, Koulla Yiasouma said: “Being in care does not mean being in prison, and young people are allowed to leave children’s homes.

“Regrettably, this means that young people can sometimes find themselves in vulnerable and worrying situations, which is clearly concerning and unacceptable.

“It is very difficult and, indeed, not appropriate to comment on individual cases such as this one without knowing the full details, but of course it is of deep concern when a child in the care of the state is placed at significant risk.

“Our report, ‘Still Waiting’, addresses the inadequacy of services for young people who take drugs and alcohol.

“It is clear that our residential care system at times struggles to meet the needs of some of the young people in their care. However we believe that the work on a new justice/care campus and satellite provision may ensure that there is sufficient specialist services, including accommodation, to address issues such as this one.

“The LAC [Looked After Children] Strategy, which aims to ensure a more collaborative and early intervention approach, is adopted and the proposed legislative reform will also better enshrine children’s rights and protections during this Assembly mandate.”