Rapist Eoin Berkley did not qualify as having mental illness

Dublin man had been detained and released a month before raping Spanish teenager

Eoin Berkley was sentenced to 14 years in prison this week for the brutal rape last year. Photograph: Collins Courts

The 25-year-old rapist Eoin Berkley did not qualify as having a "mental illness" either for the purposes of being involuntarily detained or for the purposes of using it as a defence, according to legal sources.

The Dubliner, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Thursday for brutally raping an 18-year-old Spanish woman last year, had been detained by gardaí a month before the offence under the Mental Health Act (2001). However, he was released after being seen by a doctor.

Berkley had a troubled upbringing and spent time in foster care. He left school by the age of 12 because of his violent behaviour, and his foster family found him too difficult to handle. He spent time in the Ballydowd centre in Lucan, Dublin, which is for troubled youths, and was subsequently homeless in Dublin.

At the time of his arrest he was reportedly taking an anti-psychotic drug but it is understood this was not prescribed but rather was procured on the streets.


Personality disorders

People can be involuntarily detained in mental health facilities if they have a “mental illness” as defined in the Mental Health Act, but this does not usually cover people who have personality disorders or psychological as against psychiatric problems.

A mental illness is described in the Act as “a state of mind of a person which affects the person’s thinking, perceiving, emotion or judgment and which seriously impairs the mental function of the person to the extent that he or she requires care or medical treatment in his or her own interest or in the interest of other persons”.

People cannot be involuntarily detained because they might in the future do something criminal nor can they be detained unless their detention is for the purposes of giving them care or treating their condition. Personality disorders are not generally treatable in the way a psychiatric condition might be.

According to the Mental Health Commission, a person cannot be detained solely on the basis that they have a personality disorder, are socially deviant or are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Under the law, a person accused of a crime can claim they are not mentally fit to plead or plead that they were insane at the time the crime was committed.

Troubled past

No such defence was put forward by Berkley or his legal team, despite his obvious difficulties. Mr Justice Michael White took Berkley's troubled past and mental health difficulties into account when deciding on his sentence.

Under the terms of the Mental Health Act, gardaí, when they detain someone because of a suspected mental illness that is a threat to the person or to others, must immediately get the opinion of a doctor that the mental condition is one that meets the definition in the legislation.

Once they have been told the person does not meet the criteria, they are obliged to immediately release the person they have detained, which is what happened with Berkley.