The decision by a consultant psychiatrist at St Loman’s hospital to discharge a patient and recommend that she be sent to Mountjoy Prison has been criticised in Mullingar District Court by Judge John Neilan.
There was an extra sitting of the court convened last Friday, January 30 to hear the case which initially came before the judge at a special late-night sitting at 10.30pm on Saturday January 24.
He described what had happened that weekend as “a damning indictment of the consultants”.
The woman, who is diagnosed as having a personality disorder, had appeared before the late-night sitting following her arrest on the grounds of St Loman’s Hospital where she had threatened to stab a senior nurse.
Garda David Meade found the woman in the car park on Saturday afternoon where she was “incoherent. She wasn’t together”.
She was also aggressive and “made a lunge” at the consultant and nurse present and was arrested under the Public Order Act.
The previous night, January 23, the woman had been arrested under the Mental Treatment Act when she had been a danger to herself and others, wandering in the middle of the road at College Street.
On doctor’s instructions she was taken to St Loman’s Hospital for assessment. The second offence happened after she was discharged at around midday on Saturday.
A solicitor for the HSE pointed out that personality disorder is not considered to be a mental illness under legislation and therefore the woman could not be held involuntarily at St Loman’s.
However Judge Neilan responded that there was “a track record of personality disorder when people go into St Loman’s”.
He said that on the night of the Saturday special sitting it was “quite clear she needed care and then hospitalisation in a secure psychiatric hospital”.
However the consultant psychiatrist had recommended she be sent to the Dóchas Centre, the women’s prison at Mountjoy.
The judge asked if it was fair or right that the woman was being sent to prison when consultants at St Loman’s had made no contact with the psychiatrist on duty there and sent no records with her.
The woman in this case is currently being assessed at the Central Mental Hospital.
Solicitors representing the HSE rejected the assertion the hospital was “choosy about who they take” and reiterated that the woman did not meet the criteria for involuntary admission.
Judge Neilan questioned why nurses and consultants who accompanied the woman to court on previous occasions had not at any stage said, “We’re going down the wrong road here. We should make an application on her behalf.”
The judge also said he would reconsider relaying defendants to St Loman’s on the basis that the hospital was “not compliant” with orders of the court.
A direction made at a previous court sitting relating to a different defendant had been ignored when the hospital failed to notify a Garda Superintendent when that defendant was being released.