The manager of the HSE in the Midlands has been summoned to court to explain what can be done for an offender with psychiatric issues who will have spent more than nine weeks in custody because health services have no suitable facility for him.
“I don’t care if it costs you a million, he’s not suitable for prison. You have to find somewhere for him,” said Judge Seamus Hughes to Donal Fitzsimons, the regional co-ordinator of disability services for the HSE who appeared in court this week (March 26 ).
“If I send him to prison today he’ll be in prison for the rest of his life. It’s disgraceful that you’re spending billions on the HSE, and maybe if you spent less money on those charities with huge salaries, and gave it instead to this woman,” said the judge, indicating Barbara Kelly of the Muiriosa Foundation, formerly the Sisters of Charity.
The judge was speaking about a 29-year-old man who has been in custody since he attempted to hold up Burgess department store on January 29 with a broken bottle.
The defendant, who has been caught between the HSE and the Court Services for the last 11 years since he turned 18, had earlier got very agitated in the dock and kicked and spat on one of his Garda escorts, only to be calmed by the judge.
At his most recent appearance his solicitor Mr Padraig Quinn told the court his client “suffers from mental illness, and has shown signs of paranoid schizophrenia, dyspraxia, mild ADHD, however there’s no evidence of major mental illness, and he understands the roles of judge, jury, and the courts”.
As a youth the HSE sent him to a facility in the north of England which specialised in the treatment of offenders with psychiatric difficulties, but as Ms Kelly pointed out again this week, there was no such facility in Ireland for adults.
She explained how he had attended a number of community homes across the Midlands, but that “this didn’t work”.
“I don’t believe he has the skills to live independently,” she said.
“So, one way or the other, he must be in a supervised setting,” said the judge.
Mr Fitzsimons estimated the HSE spent in the region of €100,000 a year on the man’s care, but that it had no secure places for him.
“Designated services for him over the years have failed. We don’t have supervised accommodation facilities for offenders with intellectual difficulties,” he said.
He explained how, historically, the defendant would have been institutionalised, but that nowadays “the best model is [to have him] supported in a community home environment”.
“Is he so challenged that you’ve washed your hands of him? You threw him out on the side of the road?” asked the judge.
“We didn’t throw him out on the side of the road, he leaves on his own,” said Mr Fitzsimons.
However, he was unable to offer to the court any other care for the defendant other than the care-in-the-community option, and so Judge Hughes ordered his superior - Joe Ruane - to appear next week to explain the Executive’s position.