Saturday 15 December 2018

Judge demands HSE explanation as to why ill man with 'long history of paedophilia' could leave hospital

Stock picture
Stock picture

Tim Healy

A senior judge has demanded a “very full” explanation from the HSE about why a psychiatrically ill man with a “long history of paedophilia” could leave a hospital to move freely within the community for at least four months after reports warned he is a danger to children.

The situation may have been going on even earlier than November 2017 when reports clearly warned of the sexual risk to children that the man represented, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said.

He was very concerned the HSE appeared to have been fully apprised since at least November of the danger the man posed to any child but "nothing was done"

"What is the point of having tribunals and commissions of inquiry into things that happened years ago if things like this are still happening today?" he asked. It was “purely providential” no child had suffered at the man's hands.

The judge said he was not saying the man would have criminal culpability as his mental capacity is such he could not form the necessary intent but that would be of “small comfort” to any victim. 

The man, aged in his thirties and from a very chaotic and troubled family background, has scihzo-affective disorder and mild intellectual disability but the "alarming thing" is that he was involved for some years from 1997 in serious sexual assaults, the judge said.

In 1997, the man was formally cautioned, but not prosecuted, for committing a serious sexual assault against a female special needs child who, like him, was then also in foster care.

Between 1997-99, it was alleged the man claimed to have multiple sexual acts with children between the ages of three and six before he was taken into care.

The man was referred to the Grenada Institute which recommended he needed structured living and supervision, the judge noted.

The judge said he was “so alarmed” when he first learned last Thursday, as a result of being provided by the HSE with sworn statements and reports for the man in the context of an intended application to have him made a ward of court, he made orders for the man’s overnight detention in the psychiatric hospital where he has, since 2014, been a voluntary patient.

On Friday, when the matter returned to court, the judge continued the orders until the matter returns before him next month.

The judge said the orders, which mean the man must remain in the hospital, is not permitted any outings and can be arrested by gardai and returned if he leaves the hospital, were in the man’s best interests and also in the public interest, he said.

He stressed he wanted a “very full and comprehensive” explanation, with “no ifs or buts” from the HSE as to how this situation had arisen. 

He was particularly concerned on being told on Friday by a solicitor appointed to represent the man’s interests the solicitor met the man last month in the context of a possible application for wardship. This came as a complete surprise because the HSE had not come into court concerning the wardship application until this week, he said.

Earlier, Barry O’Donnell SC, for the HSE, said the man has "a stark history", has been a voluntary patient in the hospital since 2014, is very settled there and there had been no difficulties involving him.

The HSE wanted to regularise the situation with a view to ensuring his supervision and further orders permitting exchange of reports between agencies concerning his history, he said. The judge said he would make those orders.

Mr O’Donnell said there had been delays in proceeding to have the man made a ward of court and it had been intended to make that application earlier this year. His side were very anxious to have the situation regularised, he said.

Counsel said he had no explanation as of now for the delays but one would be provided.

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