Tuesday 21 November 2017

HSE refuses to provide treatment for man convicted of sexually assaulting care-worker

Conor Gallagher

The HSE has refused to provide residential treatment for a man with severe psychological difficulties who has been convicted of sexually assaulting a care-worker.

The 24-year-old suffers from a learning difficulty and schizophrenic tendencies.

A previous court hearing heard that jail would not serve any purpose and would leave him at risk of being exploited.

Today, Judge Carmel Stewart imposed a suspended sentence, noting that all she can do is recommend he gets the relevant care in the community.

Forensic psychologist Dr Patrick Randall told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on a previous date that the man is a “high risk” subject and would benefit from a specialist residential placement.

He warned against a custodial sentence, saying the accused is at risk of being exploited in prison and that punishment is not going to have any impact on his ability to control his own behaviour.

“He needs a very high level of staff supervision and engagement, it is the HSE's responsibility to provide for that,” said Dr Randall.

After hearing the doctor’s evidence Judge Stewart adjourned the case and requested a HSE representative appear before the court to lay out the options available for the man.

Today, a barrister for the HSE, David Leahy BL, told the court that, “notwithstanding the needs of the accused”, the HSE cannot offer him any services because of his previous behaviour.

He said that as the HSE depends on voluntary organisations to provide such disability services and that none of these organisations were willing to accommodate the man.

Judge Stewart remarked that the severity of the man’s condition meant the HSE were not able to help him.

“Which is quite concerning from a public safety point of view,” she added.

The court heard that the victim in the case, a staff member in his former residential care home, proceeded with the prosecution so that others would be protected and the accused could get the help he requires. The judge noted the victim did not want a “punitive sentence” imposed.

The man lost his place in residential care after the attack and moved in with his parents. They also have intellectual difficulties and are unable to provide a suitable environment, the court heard.

Judge Stewart imposed a three year suspended sentence after noting the victim’s wishes and Dr Randall’s warnings about imprisonment.

She said her jurisdiction as a criminal court judge is limited and all she can do is recommend the man gets the relevant care.

She told his counsel that they might be able to take the case “elsewhere”, suggesting civil proceedings may be open to them.

“(The accused) has very severe special needs which need to be met,” the judge added.

He had pleaded not guilty to sexual assault in the home on February 7, 2011 and was convicted following a trial earlier this year.

During the trial the victim told prosecuting counsel Tara Burns BL that she had just come on duty and was alone in the house when the man pulled her onto the couch and straddled her.

He said “I'm going to slap you, I'm going to smack you hard,” and began to slap her right thigh. As the attack went on the slaps becoming harder and harder.

She said the man was in an aroused state and said “take off your effing bra,” before trying unsuccessfully to take it off himself. He had his hand down her leggings and up her top and was “feeling around.”

The woman told the jury that she was calmly telling him to stop and trying to push him off her, eventually managing to get free, grab a phone and run into the back garden.

He was later seen outside the house holding two knives and making slashing motions with his wrist before his arrest.

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