Central Mental Hospital management allege gardaí assaulted three staff

Complaint to Garda Ombudsman about stand-off over admission of man

The complaint to Gsoc relates to an incident during which staff at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum  initially refused to take custody of a mentally ill criminal defendant following a court order that he be detained at the hospital. Photograph: Alan Betson

The complaint to Gsoc relates to an incident during which staff at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum initially refused to take custody of a mentally ill criminal defendant following a court order that he be detained at the hospital. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The senior management of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) has made a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman alleging gardaí forced entry into the facility last week and assaulted three staff members.

The complaint relates to an incident, reported in Monday’s Irish Times, during which staff at the CMH initially refused to take custody of a mentally ill criminal defendant following a court order that he be detained at the hospital.

The CMH is a secure hospital, run by the HSE, which serves as the State’s only facility for severely mentally-ill people accused or convicted of crimes.

Last Friday, staff declined to admit the 38-year-old defendant, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and had been in prison for 14 months awaiting trial, because there were no beds available in the hospital.

This resulted in a three-hour stand-off between gardaí and staff before officers eventually entered the grounds of the facility and the staff agreed to admit the man.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the incident, senior management led by the hospital’s medical director Prof Harry Kennedy, then lodged a complaint with the Garda Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) alleging gardaí had forcibly entered the facility and “assaulted” three staff in the process.

The Garda sergeant who was present at the scene was notified of the complaint on Tuesday morning. It is understood gardaí involved strongly dispute the version of events detailed in the complaint.

Court order

A Garda source with knowledge of the incident, said that officers felt they had no choice but to enter the facility to enforce the court order.

Both Gsoc and the Garda declined to comment on the matter, citing standard policy regarding Ombudsman investigations.

A source within the hospital said the CMH was already at overcapacity when the man was brought there on Friday and is even more over capacity now. The hospital has an official capacity of 102 patients.

“Admitting the man while at capacity is a danger to his safety and the safety of others,” said one staff member.

The man remains at the hospital. His solicitor Ciarán Mulholland said on Tuesday he has tried multiple times to obtain an update on his condition but has heard nothing back from the CMH.

He said he plans to send a registered letter requesting information and to raise the matter again before the Circuit Court next week.

‘In handcuffs’

Mr Mulholland said he also intends to make a “subject access request” under GDPR for CCTV footage of the incident to understand “why my client had to spend so long in handcuffs in the back of a squad car while all this went on”.

Mr Mulholland has previously brought a judicial review seeking psychiatric treatment for his client who currently faces several charges before Trim Circuit Court.

By the time of the incident last Friday, the defendant was third on the waiting list for a bed in the CMH. There is often a lengthy waiting list for prisoners for inpatient psychiatric treatment at the hospital, an issue which has been the subject of several recent court actions.

In 2019, a woman found not guilty by reason of insanity of murdering her child could not be detained in the CMH due to a lack of beds. She was eventually admitted five days later when a bed became free.

The HSE has said the capacity of the CMH will improve in mid-2021 when it moves to a new 170-bed facility in Portrane, north County Dublin. However, Prof Kennedy has previously said this bed capacity will be exceeded “within a few years”.