Judge adjourns case against woman found not guilty of assault by reason of insanity
Family gives undertaking to notify the authorities if woman stops taking medication
Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES
The family of a woman found not guilty by reason of insanity of assaulting a work colleague when she put a knife to her throat has promised a judge that they will immediately notify the authorities is she stops taking her medication to prevent paranoid delusions.
Erica Gill (40), previously of Ozalid House, Camden Quay, Cork, was back at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday having been found not guilty by reason of insanity by a jury on Monday of two charges arising out of the incident with supervisor, Sandra O’Connell at Solar Winds in Cork on August 14th, 2017.
The jury of five women and seven men took a matter of minutes to find Ms Gill, who now lives with her family, not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of assault causing harm to Sandra O’Connell and producing a knife during the incident at Solar Winds. On the direction of trial judge, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin, the jury had also found Ms Gill not guilty of a third charge of threatening to kill. The judge adjourned the case until Wednesday to allow Ms Gill’s defence team call a medical expert to give evidence on her behalf.
Defence witness, psychiatrist, Dr Sinead O’Brien said that while Ms Gill was currently responding well and was on anti-psychotic medication, she would be recommending long-term treatment for her on the basis of her paranoid delusions at the time of the incident and the seriousness of the incident.
Cross-examined by prosecution barrister, Donal O’Sullivan BL, Dr O’Brien agreed it would be prudent to send Ms Gill for a 14-day in-patient assessment at the Central Mental Hospital whenever a place becomes available.
Mr O’Sullivan had earlier told Judge Ó Donnabháin that a place for such an assessment would not be available for at least three months and he suggested the matter be adjourned to a later date when a place would be available.
Defence barrister, Ray Boland BL said Ms Gill had been an inpatient at St Michael’s at the Mercy University Hospital until October 2017 but she had been doing well on anti-psychotic medicine since and there had been no relapse and he suggested adjourning the case for a year to see how she does.
Mr Boland submitted it would be a suitable case for Ms Gill to remain under her present regime of care which involves her living with her parents in Clare and taking her medication rather than sending her to the Central Mental Hospital and he applied for a year’s adjournment to see how she fares.
Mr O’Sullivan said the question that Judge Ó Donnabháin had to decide was not whether Ms Gill needed in-patient treatment now but whether she might need it in the future and he noted that Dr O’Brien had acknowledged that Ms Gill would need long-term treatment.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said that it was “potentially a difficult and dangerous case” and having heard the evidence, he did not for one moment want to underestimate the danger that Ms Gill had posed. “There are risks. Dr O’Brien is aware of them but there is progress,” he said.
Ms Gill’s father, John Gill told the court he and his wife were happy for their daughter to continue living with them in Clare and he gave an undertaking to the court that he would notify the medical authorities if she stopped taking her anti-psychotic medicine.
Judge Ó Donnabháin acknowledged Mr Gill’s undertaking and Mr Boland’s submission there had been no incident in the past 18 months. “The situation is being more than adequately managed at the moment,” he said, adjourning the case until November 15th with Ms Gill to reside with her parents.
During the trial the jury had heard the injured party, Sandra O’Connell testify via a statement that she worked as general manager of technical support at Solar Winds at City Gate in Cork and that on the morning in question, she welcomed Ms Gill back to work as she had been out sick for a brief period.
She said that some 15 minutes after the conversation she noticed that Ms Gill was staring at her before she stood up in an aggressive fashion and left the room. Later that morning she was in the canteen, talking to others, when she was grabbed from behind and caught around the neck.
Ms O’Connell’s first reaction was that someone was joking with her but then she realised that Ms Gill had caught her around the throat and she heard her say, “You f***ing bitch,” before she felt something pressing against her neck which she managed to pull away from her.
It turned out that Ms Gill was holding a steak knife against her neck and in trying to protect herself, she sustained cuts to her fingers which had to be bandaged but did not require stitching, she said.
Ms O’Connell told in her statement how Ms Gill had said to her during the incident, “Tell them what you did – you and that other f***er laughing at me” and she told how she feared for her life. “I was petrified. I thought I was going to be killed. It was like she had lost control of her senses,” she said.