Temporary release cannot be regarded as permanent release
C.D. v Clinical Director of the Central Mental Hospital and Minister for Justice and Equality
Judgment was delivered on February 6th, by Chief Justice Ms Justice Susan Denham, with Mr Justice John Murray and Mr Justice John MacMenamin concurring.
A temporary release under section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1960 cannot transform into a permanent release and cannot nullify an order of the Central Criminal Court.
On May 2nd, 1995, Ms D was found guilty of murder, but insane. The Central Criminal Court ordered that she be detained in the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, “until the pleasure of the Government of Ireland be known”.
She had killed a woman in Dublin in 1994 believing she was the devil and was going to kill her. She had been suffering from schizophrenia since 1992.
Ms D was released from the hospital for short periods and in September 2000 was released for a longer time under section 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1960. Doctors believed she was not a danger to herself or to others. Her temporary release document did not state how long her release would be.
She returned to the hospital in August 2012 at the request of consultant psychiatrist Angela Newman. She was told she was suffering from an acute psychotic relapse and no longer fulfilled the conditions for temporary release.
Prof Harry Kennedy, the clinical director of the hospital, examined Ms D and believed she was in urgent need of admission. He no longer believed she was not a danger to herself and others. Ms D applied to the High Court under Article 40 of the Constitution to be released from the hospital. The High Court found she was legally detained there and Ms D appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision. Ms Justice Denham said it was clear Ms D’s health had relapsed in June, July and August 2012 “when some serious events took place” and she had suffered “an acute psychotic relapse”.
“The uncontested evidence indicated that the contents of the appellant’s delusions during the present illness manifested themselves in the same form as the delusions at the time of her unlawful killing in 1994,” she said.
“The expert opinion of the doctors was that there was a considerable and serious likelihood of the appellant causing serious harm to herself and other persons.”
The key issues raised by counsel for Ms D involved whether the release in 2000 was a full release and, even if it was temporary, counsel argued she could only be brought back from temporary release if she breached a condition.
Her counsel argued she had not breached any condition.
Ms Justice Denham said Ms D continued to be subject to the 1995 order which remained “in full force and effect” and her detention had been valid.
The 2000 temporary release document could not be regarded as a permanent release and was no longer relevant as there had been subsequent temporary release documents, the Judge found.
She said a precondition for temporary release was the opinion of the person in charge that the patient was not dangerous to herself or to others. The evidence before the High Court showed opinion had altered.
She said a temporary release, or a purported temporary release, could not transform into a permanent release and that a temporary release could not nullify an order of the Central Criminal Court.
“I have no hesitation in dismissing the appeal,” Ms Justice Denham said.
She also said the Supreme Court had ordered Ms D should not be present for the giving of its judgment as medical opinion had been concerned at her presence in the court.
“While the running of the appellant’s case is a matter for her counsel, in situations where the medical opinion is that she should not be present, that medical opinion carries a significant weight and should not be overborne lightly by counsel,” she said.
Colman Fitzgerald SC and Niall Nolan BL, instructed by John Neville Co Solicitors for the appellant, Peter Finlay SC and Mary Phelan BL, instructed by Byrne Wallace for the respondent. The full judgment is on courts.ie.