Traumatised woman who is a serious risk to others agrees to stay in detention

High Court hears 18-year-old woman is concerned she might harm herself and others

The woman, who has a personality and medical disorder and other difficulties, has been assessed as not having a psychiatric disorder under the Mental Health Act. File Photograph: Collins Courts.

The woman, who has a personality and medical disorder and other difficulties, has been assessed as not having a psychiatric disorder under the Mental Health Act. File Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A ruling on an application to lift detention orders for a traumatised young woman, whose expressed desire to kill her mother and harm women is taken very seriously, has been deferred by the High Court until next week.

The court heard the 18-year-old woman is concerned she might harm herself and others if she voluntarily goes immediately to an organised placement which she believes will not address her needs.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, wants the detention orders lifted because they were made pending a wardship inquiry, now withdrawn due to psychiatric evidence the woman has regained capacity, making her ineligible for wardship.

The woman, who has a personality and medical disorder and other difficulties, has been assessed as not having a psychiatric disorder under the Mental Health Act.

She has been in a secure care facility for children for some two years while an unsuccessful search, including in the UK, was carried out to obtain a place in medium secure care unit suitable to her needs.

The adult wardship proceedings were initiated in late 2019 as she was about to turn 18. She opposed wardship but agreed to orders for her continuing detention so as to obtain therapies.

In light of updated psychiatric evidence earlier this month that she has regained capacity, Tusla confirmed to the court on Monday it was not pursuing wardship and wanted the detention orders lifted.

It had organised an onward placement for the woman which is dependent on her voluntary participation as she could not be compelled to go there, Barry O’Donnell SC said.

The woman is separately on bail from the District Court in relation to assault charges and a file has been sent to the DPP concerning her alleged involvement in a Covid-19 related coughing incident.

In light of conflicting instructions from the woman as to whether or not she would move to the onward placement, and evidence she has low mood and suicidal ideation, the matter was adjourned to Tuesday when Tusla renewed its application to lift the detention orders.

John D Fitzgerald SC, for the woman, sought a week long adjournment to allow her fully consider the proposed onward placement and her legal options.

He said the woman had consented for some time to remain in an environment she had never wished to be in so as to obtain help to address her trauma.

She is currently in a low mood and is concerned, if placed in an open setting, she would harm herself or others, he said. She wants to address her long term trauma because she recognised it is not in her own interests not to do so but her concern was, what had always been a future desirable proposed change to another placement had now become an “immediate and stark” reality and she had only this week begun to engage with that.

Given he low mood and concern about immediate self-harm, she wanted a week to consider the situation during which she would consent to the detention orders being continued. The “depressing reality” is that, if she goes to the placement now and it fails, it may be a different arm of the State which deals with her in perhaps a very long term way, he said.

Michael Lynn SC, for the mother, supported an adjournment and remarked, while the woman cannot be involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act, there “may be another mechanism”.

Mr O’Donnell said Tusla was concerned about any further adjournment for reasons including a long waiting list for the children’s secure unit where the woman currently is and that unit’s registration with Hiqa was also at risk if the woman remains there, with “dreadful implications” for that service.

Ms Justice Irvine remarked that risk may have to be balanced against the risk to the woman’s mother and other women if she is relased into the community.

Having taken further instructions, Mr O’Donnell said Tusla would agree, “with enormous reluctance”, to an adjournment to Monday. The agency has a concern the woman historically responds to certain situations by “making threats” and believed she has been clearly aware, if wardship did not succeed, there would be an immediate release of her detention, he said.

The judge granted that adjournment on a peremptory basis. She will address issues on Friday concerning what information about the woman may be disclosed by Tusla to gardaí.