Central Mental Hospital ‘too full’ to take mother who killed daughter

Woman (43) ruled to have been insane when she smothered her child with a pillow

The Central Mental Hospital Dundrum.  Photograph: Alan Betson

The Central Mental Hospital Dundrum. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A mother found to have been insane when she smothered her child with a pillow cannot be committed to the Central Mental Hospital because the facility has reached “full capacity in its quota of female patients”, a court has heard.

A barrister for the HSE told the Central Criminal Court on Thursday that every effort is being made to secure a bed for the woman and it was hoped that the matter would be resolved by Friday morning.

The 43-year-old woman, who cannot be named by order of the court, was found not guilty by reason of insanity on Wednesday of the murder of her three-year-old daughter in their family home nearly two years ago.

Prosecution counsel Paul Murray SC told Mr Justice Michael White on Thursday day that the trial judge, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart, had made an order committing the defendant to the Central Mental Hospital in order for the preparation of a psychiatric assessment by an approved medical officer. The matter was to be brought back before the court on November 5th, he indicated.

However, Mr Murray said no bed was made available for the woman so the order could not be complied with. “This came as news to all parties concerned,” he remarked.

The court had to be reconvened with Ms Justice Stewart on Wednesday evening, where she vacated the committal order and admitted the defendant on bail, said Mr Murray. The lawyer reminded the court that the woman had been granted bail with certain conditions in July of this year.

The only bail condition which could not be continued was her surety as the trial had now come to an end, said Mr Murray, adding there was no objection from the prosecution to this.

Full capacity

Dr Ronan Mullaney, the defendant’s treating consultant psychiatrist, gave evidence on Wednesday evening that his patient’s application was not of the most immediate urgency, said Mr Murray. As a result, Ms Justice Stewart vacated the woman’s committal order and released her on bail, he said.

Peter Finlay SC, for the HSE, informed the court that every effort is being made to secure a bed for the woman but the CMH had reached full capacity in its quota of female patients.

“The CMH had made arrangements in anticipation of the verdict to transfer another woman to a third party facility but it became clear that this facility was not appropriate for her,” he explained. Mr Finlay said he hoped the issue would be resolved by Friday morning.

Addressing the defendant, Mr Justice White said: “There is a mandatory obligation on the court to get a report in order to see whether you need further treatment or not and there is a mandatory time for doing that.”

The judge remanded the woman on continuing bail until Friday morning .

The two-day trial at the Central Criminal Court heard that the woman described to gardai how she held the pillow over the child’s face.

The woman became “obsessed” and “overwhelmed” with the infant’s autism diagnosis and convinced herself that the toddler had a more severe form of autism when in reality the diagnosis was at the milder end of the spectrum.

She was fearful for her child’s future and felt it could ruin the life of her other child. In the days prior to the killing the defendant had carried out internet searches on “suicide” and “mothers killing their autistic children”.

The toddler was pronounced dead on February 13th, 2018 and her cause of death was cerebral hypoxia, caused by the act of suffocation.

Two consultant forensic psychiatrists from the CMH gave evidence during the trial that the defendant fulfilled the criteria for the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.