Saturday 18 November 2017

Jury finds inmate who assaulted a prison officer not guilty by reason of insanity

Declan Brennan

A JURY has decided that an inmate who assaulted a prison officer with a razor blade was suffering from paranoid schizophrenic hallucinations at the time.

James Burns (27) of Navan Road, Dublin had pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm and possession of a razor blade at Mountjoy prison, Dublin on August 20, 2010

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Mr Burns admitted grabbing the head of prison officer John Gilligan, and cutting him across the face with the blade.

He also admitted punching the prison officer in the mouth and chasing him out of his prison cell before other prison officers managed to overpower him.

Dr Paul O’Connell, consultant forensic psychiatrist with the Central Mental Hospital, told defence counsel Ann Marie Whelan BL that Mr Burns had been hearing voices in his head telling him he was going to be raped by prison officers.

The doctor said Mr Burns also believed his own internal thoughts were being broadcast and that other people’s thoughts were being put into his head.

The court heard that Mr Burns is a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers from delusions of persecution.

The jury of eight men and four women took 40 minutes to return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mr Burns was committed back to the Central Mental Hospital, where he currently resides.

Mr Burns was serving the first half of a nine month sentence after he was caught carrying a wrench while under a suspended sentence.

He had applied for temporary release and was hoping to be released, because of prison overcrowding, around the time of the attack.

In the days before the attack he found a razor blade left in a storeroom. He also told prison officers he was going to hurt somebody if he was not let out.

Mr Burns later told Dr O’Connell that the night before the assault three prison officers had gone into his cell and that he could hear them saying telepathically that they were going to rape him.

A second consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Sally Linehan said in a report that Mr Burns was suffering at the time from an acute relapse of mental illness and that he believed his actions were justified to protect himself from rape.

Judge Patrick McCartan ordered that Mr Burns be reassessed and the results of this assessment presented to the court in 14 days.

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