A mentally ill woman has been released unsupported into society because the DPP has withdrawn the charges against her.
The woman, who has an address at St Loman’s Hospital, has been in custody and in the care of the Central Mental Hospital since she assaulted a woman in the grounds of the Mullingar hospital in January and was abusive.
It emerged at Mullingar District Court yesterday that on the morning of her arrest, Gardaí had not been called to St Loman’s before her release, despite the fact that she had been very disturbed, had thrown her breakfast, urinated on the floor, and was aggressive to the extent that one other patient had expressed a wish to leave the hospital.
Before she was released, she had twice threatened to kill a nurse who declared herself to be in fear.
Judge John Neilan said the only reason Gardaí had been called was because after her release she had gotten into the car of a visitor to the hospital and refused to get out.
She had refused to remain voluntarily in the hospital, and because of a diagnosis of personality disorder, the hospital said it was unable to keep her involuntarily.
Judge John Neilan described her appearance before him at a special hearing of Mullingar District Court on January 24 as one of the saddest nights he had ever experienced.
During yesterday’s final hearing at Mullingar District Court, the woman was initially calm but grew visibly more disturbed as the proceedings continued. She rocked in her seat, kicked at the timber structure in front of her seat, banged on it with her cuffed hands, wept, and repeatedly shouted.
At one stage she emitted a bloodcurdling scream of “Jesus”.
Judge Neilan warned her on a number of occasions to be quiet or she would be removed from the courthouse.
The judge, who is the subject of a formal complaint from the HSE in relation to the case, expressed his serious concerns for her safety to HSE solicitor Dermot Scanlon. He was unhappy that there seemed to be no mechanism to move patients from units like St Loman’s to the Central Mental Hospital (CMH ) without involving the Gardaí.
He quoted a letter given to arresting Garda David Mead by the consultant psychiatrist who released her, which said that they were unable to provide for her at St Loman’s, but if she could be sent to the Dóchas Centre (the women’s prison at Mountjoy ), she would be transferred to the Central Mental Hospital.
The judge reiterated his comments that it had taken four weeks to stabilise the woman after she had been arrested, and questioned whether she had the mental capacity to commit a criminal act at the time.
He said it struck him as “unusual” that Dr Gráinne Flynn from the CMH had told the court at that point that the woman would be able to go back to St Loman’s once she had signed a bail bond.
At that same time, her solicitor had been unable to take instructions from her, he said.
Yesterday he questioned how she was to be released when there was no indication of any permanent place of abode for her, when it was not clear what her capacity for independent living was, and when there was no sign of any family or friends to support her.
He said that if he discharged her she would be arrested again, and they would be “back to square one”.