Garda considering criminal investigation into Kerry Camhs revelations

Gardaí seek input from families affected by mental health service deficiencies

A HSE review was published this week into allegations that young people who attended Camhs services in south Kerry were prescribed inappropriate medication

A HSE review was published this week into allegations that young people who attended Camhs services in south Kerry were prescribed inappropriate medication

 

Gardaí are considering whether to launch a criminal investigation into revelations of significant harm to children who attended mental health services in Kerry.

They have invited parents of young people impacted by deficiencies in the South Kerry Child and Adult Mental Health Service (Camhs) to contact them.

A statement on Friday evening said An Garda Síochána in Kerry Division was in receipt of the detailed and extensive final report released this week, “which will now be considered in the context of whether there are grounds to commence a criminal investigation”.

The statement said An Garda Síochána was fully aware of the impact the report has had on a number of families within the Kerry Division.

Any parent or guardian of a young person “who they believe may have suffered harm and wishes to contact An Garda Síochána in Kerry” can do so by emailing KY.CAMHSKerry@garda.ie or by calling to their local Garda station.

“Any contacts will be treated sensitively and with the strictest confidence. The Divisional Protective Services Unit in Kerry will engage with each of the families involved and the specific circumstances of their individual case.

“An assessment will be carried out by the specialist team within the DPSU to determine whether the complaint reaches the threshold to commence a criminal investigation.”

Earlier, the Taoiseach said families and young people impacted will be able to have their cases dealt with in a “non-adversarial manner” rather than having to go to court.

Speaking to reporters in Cork, Micheál Martin said the contents of a review, which found that overprescribing of drugs to children and adolescents occurred in the region, was alarming.

“As I have said in the Dáil this week it is absolutely unacceptable and shocking what happened and the report itself didn’t pull any punches in that regard in terms of harm that was done to children and also treatment that was risky,” he said.

A HSE review was published this week into allegations that young people who attended Camhs services in south Kerry were prescribed inappropriate medication. It examined the treatment of more than 1,300 young people over a four-year period and found that 227 children, whose cases were managed by a junior doctor, were exposed to a serious risk of harm by way of sedation, emotional and cognitive blunting, growth disturbance and serious weight changes. It found “clear evidence” of significant harm being caused to 46 children.

Mr Martin said he and the Attorney General Paul Gallagher have had preliminary discussions with a view to finding a “non-adversarial mechanism to deal with this and to address this issue”.

“That could involve a mediated approach or a mediation mechanism but we will look at a range of mechanisms to achieve that in the most efficient, effective and empathetic manner possible.”

Accountability

When asked if specific individuals either past or present in South Kerry Camhs should face disciplinary action, Mr Martin said there would have to be accountability.

“There are mechanisms there as you know in terms of different categories in terms of accountability. There are various mechanisms there. I don’t want to preempt those. But they are there in terms of ensuring accountability,” he said.

“What emerges from the report is not just about one doctor to be fair. It is much broader than that. And that is what gives real concern. And that is what gives real concern in terms of what you have referred to that it took far far too long for intervention to happen.”

The Taoiseach said the issues identified were not due to a lack of resources, as the service is well funded by the State, but rather problems recruiting experienced psychiatric staff to work in it.

Earlier, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said disciplinary action would be taken, if appropriate, in relation to the issues raised in the report. Mr Reid said a suite of governance issues in respect of the service needed to be addressed.

“It usually revolves around a set of initiatives that have to be addressed, whether it is how people were performance-managed, how the organisation of the services were delivered and how the oversight was there,” he told RTÉ Morning Ireland.

“We have to go at it at a range of perspectives. If discipline is one of those processes, that will happen too. What wasn’t identified or recommended specifically in this report was the issue of discipline.”

Mr Reid said the immediate focus was to provide the necessary supports for impacted children and families. He declined to comment on issues regarding legal cases which might follow.

Mr Reid said in 2019 the HSE put in place new standard operating guidelines procedures for the 73 Camhs teams. “That is what we will now be assessing to give the public further reassurance and assurance across the country in terms of compliance with those standards.”

He acknowledged there were missed opportunities in relation to identifying problems with the Kerry Camhs service.

“There were various points of time where the escalation should have happened stronger and interventions could have been made earlier” he said.

“People were trying to oversee and do the right thing but it was only in September 2020 that community organisation alerted to the potential significance of this, and then a whole set of triggers and actions has taken place including the appointment of Dr Sean Maskey to carry out this significant look-back review and report.”

Litany of failures

Parent Maurice O’Connell, whose 14-year-old son Jason was overprescribed medication for ADHD by Kerry-based consultant Dr David Kromer, said the report identified a litany of failures right across the Camhs service.

“I have no confidence in Camhs. I would prefer if I went private now. I don’t have any trust in them in terms of supervision. They gave him [DR KROMER]carte blanche to give out medication. Why wasn’t he supervised more?

“You have to live with the child to see the effect of the overdose of this medication. They say [IN THE REPORT]that children didn’t suffer a catastrophic effect but if you lived here or any other house you would know what type of damage these tablets have done.”

A solicitor representing a number of families who used the Kerry Camhs service said they deserved more than a perfunctory apology from the HSE and called on the Taoiseach to apologise.

“It is utterly scandalous. It is a matter in my opinion that should be investigated under the criminal court,” Padraig O’Connell said. “Obviously there should be due process but it should be investigated in the criminal court.”

Mr O’Connell said an apology from the HSE was “meaningless unless it is met by action”.