High Court to review detention of man in psychiatric hospital after 16 years

Vulnerable man has been in care since he was a child and is ‘entirely on his own’

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said  “due process is important” and there had been no review of the man’s detention for a long period.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said “due process is important” and there had been no review of the man’s detention for a long period.

 

A man with a mild intellectual disability and alcohol dependence syndrome who is detained in a psychiatric hospital as a ward of court is having his detention reviewed by the High Court for the first time in 16 years.

Such reviews are directed by the president of the court but did not happen regularly until the current president, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, took over the wardship list in 2015. The wards of court office had written to the HSE last month seeking the man’s detention be reviewed and Mr Justice Kelly listed the matter before him this week.

The man, aged in his fifties, was in care institutions since he was a child and has no family and is “entirely on his own”, the court heard.

His consultant psychiatrist since 2009 expressed the view he lacks capacity to manage his personal health and affairs.

She said his continuing hospital detention is in his best interests and welfare and, because of his past history of sexual harassment, the welfare of others.

She considered he is vulnerable, institutionalised, not capable of independent living, would spend his money on alcohol if released, probably become homeless, and would be at risk if not in a supervised setting. A hostel setting was not appropriate for him, she considered.

A solicitor representing the general solicitor for wards of court said the man had expressed a wish to live in a hostel and to be permitted into the hospital gardens. He also talked about a love of painting and old Dublin.

Mr Justice Kelly directed an independent assessment of the man be carried out by a court-appointed medical visitor who will then report to the court.

While not doubting the psychiatrist’s views, the judge said “due process is important” and there had been no review of the man’s detention for a long period.

Pending further order, he directed the man remain in the hospital and be permitted such outings as the authorities considered appropriate.

Dependence

The man has been an inpatient of various hospitals since the mid 1990s. His psychiatrist said he has a mild intellectual disability, alcohol dependence syndrome and has also been treated for depression. He has a long history of contact with the mental health services and was admitted on many occasions from the late 1970s for alcohol detoxification.

He was detained as an involuntary patient for a time in 1993 and made a ward of court in 1994. Before wardship, he lived on the streets and was regularly imprisoned for being drunk and disorderly. He absconded on occasion from the psychiatric hospital and returned intoxicated and with bruising, having apparently been assaulted, the judge also heard. That had not happened for several years.

He had expressed a wish some years ago to live independently but acknowledged that would present difficulties for him. In his current care arrangement, he has a room of his own and there have been fewer incidents since he was placed there, the court heard.