The HSE has secured a High Court order requiring a man with psychiatric illness to wear a tamper-proof GPS tracking device.
The order was among several made in the interests of the man's safety and welfare by High Court president Ms Justice Mary Irvine in the context of intended wardship proceedings.
The man’s psychiatric illness involves delusions and a compulsion to go to isolated and remote environments, including a mountain, which sometimes sees him leaving his location immediately and staying out overnight without food, suitable clothing or a phone.
The court was told the tracking device would assist gardaí in locating him and returning him to his community high-support unit.
The HSE application, supported by the man’s sister, his next of kin, comes following a decline in his physical health and longer absconsions to remote environments, from which he returned sometimes in very poor physical condition.
Ms Justice Irvine noted winter is approaching and the evidence was that the man, aged in his 60s, tends to go further and further away without proper clothing.
The aim of the tracking device and other orders sought is to mitigate the risk to him so he can continue living in the community unit, she noted.
She made the orders, including ones permitting, if necessary, the man to be admitted, assessed and treated in a psychiatric unit and allowing gardaí to search for, arrest and return the man to the community unit.
In seeking the orders on Thursday, Paul Brady BL, for the HSE, said the man’s treating consultant had reported that medication which had had the effect of reducing his absconsions had to be reduced in recent years because it led to the man being excessively sedated. Efforts to establish his whereabouts using mobile phones were also not successful.
A removable tracker device was tried earlier this year but the man removed it during one of his absconsions, counsel said.
The man agreed earlier this month to wear a GPS tracking device which is difficult to remove without an unlocking device but his care team considered a court order directing him to continue wearing that device would assist in ensuring he did so.
The man, due to his illness, does not have control over his compulsions, Mr Brady said.
The man, who has a long history of mental illness and multiple admissions to psychiatric hospitals, had never been subject of a compulsory admission order as he was usually compliant with requests that he admit himself voluntarily, the court heard.
His court-appointed guardian said he hoped to meet with the man next week to properly ascertain his views.
The guardian said he understood the man would prefer not to be made a ward of court because he believed that wardship could result in his being returned to a psychiatric unit. His social worker and care team are trying to keep him in the least restrictive environment possible, the guardian said.
Given the “life-threatening” scenarios from long absconsions, it was difficult to object to the orders sought, the guardian said. The man may wish to object to wardship at some point, he stressed.