A Circuit Court judge has refused to suspend the balance of a prisoner’s sentence because there is nowhere for him to go to get the help he needs.
“If I let him out now, what’s to become of him?” asked Judge Anthony Kennedy at Mullingar Circuit Court. “I don’t know,” was the response of Geraldine Fenton, mother of 19 year old Derek, 36 Lynn Heights, Mullingar.
Mr Fenton had pleaded guilty in the District Court to assaulting Garda Michael Daniels of Mullingar Garda Station who was accompanying him to hospital on doctor’s instructions. He head-butted the Garda in the A&E unit and was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment on September 18.
The court heard that Mr Fenton had psychological, learning, and speech problems as well as a conduct disorder. Mrs Fenton said her son could not come back and live with her because his needs were too great. “He needs an awful lot of help. He needs to be back in the care of psychologists.”
She said that her son, the youngest of six boys, had left school very early and had little education. Derek, who was diagnosed with ADHD at 11, has no friends because “he’s very anti-social”. Mrs Fenton said her son was finding his detention difficult. “He’s very sad. He knows he’s done wrong.”
She accepted that as yet her son hasn’t received the “serious interventions” which he needs. She hoped that he will be able to engage with the adult psychological services, now that he is too old to be cared for by child services.
Mr Fenton was convicted on September 19 of threatening behaviour, assault, criminal damage, and possession of an article. His mother said it was his first serious offence but couldn’t say if his detention was benefitting him.
“I want to organise help for him, but the help isn’t there,” she said.
Judge Kennedy commented that Mr Fenton had been assessed by numerous experts but “there has been no structured life devised for him to live, to work, to attend school or do anything”.
Mr Fenton’s barrister said that a report from November 2007 showed that his client had a difficulty with alcohol abuse which led to aggression. If the sentence was reduced, there would be an opportunity for systems to be put in place and for the probation and welfare services to engage with Mr Fenton.
The judge said he could not let Mr Fenton walk out the door without a package for him to participate in. He directed that the Probation Service engage with the teenager and that a suitable facility be found to accommodate him, if available.
He said he was more than willing to suspend the balance of the sentence if there were concrete proposals for a regimen for Mr Fenton. The appeal has been adjourned to next term.