Tuesday 20 March 2018

Central Medical Hospital has no inpatient option for man acquitted of harassment by reason of insanity, court hears

The Central Mental Hospital
The Central Mental Hospital

Conor Gallagher and Aoife Nic Ardghail

The State's only designated facility for assessing and treating people found not guilty through “insanity” has just a fraction of the capacity required for inpatients, a court has heard.

Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting, submitted that there was no inpatient option available at the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) for a man who was acquitted of harassment by reason of insanity. Counsel told Judge Sarah Berkeley that the hospital had one fifth of the capacity required for inpatients.

The 50-year-old man had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Court by reason of insanity to harassment of six people, including five members of his extended family, between 2012 and 2014.

He had been on trial under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, which states that a jury may return a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity if jurors believe the accused was not mentally responsible for their actions at the time.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity on all counts after about ten minutes deliberations.

Mr Foley told Judge Berkeley that the man has “made every effort to co-operate and take his medicine” and added that the best option would be for him to keep availing of outpatient treatment.

He said the man's underlying condition is now under control and he poses no risk to himself or the victims in the case.

Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending, agreed that the outpatient solution was “sensible” due to the lack of capacity for assessment as an inpatient.

Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Conor O’ Neill told the judge that the man has an underlying delusional disorder but there's no immediate likelihood of him harming himself or others.

Dr O'Neill said he was satisfied the man should not be committed to the CMH if he could manage his treatment in the community.

During the trial, Mr Foley said there “was a virtual campaign of harassment” by the man against the six people.

Many threats were issued over the phone and one person, who was a garda at the time, received 530 phone calls from the accused.

Gardaí from four different stations gave evidence of the content of the calls. In one of the calls the accused suggested he was being persecuted by Barack Obama and in another he told the recipient: “you're going to torture and kill me and that's what you've being trying to do to me for the last six years.”

Mr Kavanagh said his client was picking things up in the media and applying them to his life.

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