Girl in care linked to loyalist paramilitary men

A 15-year-old girl in care was allegedly involved in having sex and taking drugs with men linked to loyalist paramilitaries, the High Court has heard.

The girl, who cannot be identified, is charged with assaulting a resident and a member of staff at a County Down children's home.

Bail was refused to help her sever ties with any men trying to exploit her.

The judge said it would be granted when secure accommodation could be found.

The court was also told she was alleged to have breached conditions last week by leaving the home without permission early on a morning she was due in court.

The teenager, who returned later, claimed that a local LVF man had demanded she attend his home.

Prosecution lawyer Philip Henry detailed further disclosures involving the alleged taking of drugs and sex with older men.

"She has referred to engaging in sexual activity with more than one male, taking cocaine and various other drugs," he said.

The court was also told that although the home is prepared to take her back, social services want her to spend a period in secure accommodation first.

"She is forming very dangerous bonds at the minute, dangerous to her own well-being, and it's those the trust wish to break," Mr Henry added.

A defence lawyer accepted his client had left the care home "at the request of a known local figure".

He added: "She instructs that her own safety was never in doubt and she returned to the home of her own volition.

"She denies some of the circumstances outlined in respect of her activity with older men."

Dependency

However, Mr Justice Weatherup pointed to how vulnerable young people in care are being targeted.

"This is done very often for sexual purposes. It involves the use of drugs so that it creates a false dependency," he said.

"Those who perpetrate this kind of abuse seem to be very adept at identifying those who might easily fall under their influence."

According to the judge, similar elements were detectable in this case.

"We have the Northern Ireland element, of course, that here some of the influences seem to be of a paramilitary nature," he added.

"So all of that leads to a concern that young people should not be exploited by others who offer them friendship but have got ulterior motives."

Bail will be granted when the girl's transfer to secure accommodation is approved, he confirmed.

Until then, the judge ruled that she should remain in the juvenile detention centre.

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