Murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, assault causing serious bodily harm and arson were among the offences, or alleged offences, which patients detained in the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum in 2020 were charged with, or convicted of, according to the annual report 2020 of the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board.
The Review Board is responsible for reviewing the detention of patients who have been referred to designated centres arising from a decision by the courts that they are unfit to stand trial or have been found not guilty of an offence by reason of insanity.
Of the 90 patients whose detention was reviewed, 41 had been charged with, or convicted of, murder
The Board has the power to order the continued detention of patients or to order either their conditional or unconditional discharge, having regard to the welfare of the patient and to the public interest.
The Board also reviews the detention of prisoners, including military prisoners, who have been transferred to a designated centre suffering from a mental disorder. The Board can order their continued detention in a designated centre or their return to prison.
The Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, is currently a designated centre under the 2006 Act. In April 2020, one Unit of the new National Forensic Health Service campus in Portrane, was also designated under the Act, due to the necessity to provide additional accommodation due to the COVID pandemic.
The 2020 annual report said the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board was a statutory independent body established under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006. Chaired by Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, the other members were Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr.Katherine Brown, Counsellor Psychotherapist, Ms. Nora McGarry and Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Walsh.
During 2020, there was a slight increase in the number of review hearings held by the Board. It conducted 203 review hearings into the detention of patients detained in the Central Mental Hospital, compared with 198, the previous year. The Board reviewed the detention of 90 patients, compared with 91 in 2019.
Of the 90 patients whose detention was reviewed, 41 had been charged with, or convicted of, murder. Twenty-two of the victims of this offence, or alleged offence, were a family member of the patient, nine were known to the patient and ten of the victims were strangers to the patient.
A total of nine patients were charged with, or convicted of, attempted murder/manslaughter/death by dangerous driving. In five of these cases, the victim was either a family member or known to the patient. In the other four cases, the victim was a stranger to the patient. Twenty-four patients were charged with, or convicted of, assault causing harm/serious bodily harm. In five of these cases, the victim was a family member, in four cases the victim was known to the patient and in the other fifteen cases, the victim was a stranger to the patients. Four patients were charged with, or convicted of, arson. Twelve patients were charged with, or convicted of, offences which included sexual assault, threat to kill, harassment, false imprisonment, attempted abduction of a child, trespass and possession of a knife with the intention to cause harm, possession of knives and intimidation and threat to set a Garda station alight.
Of the 90 patients, six were granted a conditional discharge.
In 2019, five conditional discharges were approved by the Board.
Of the 90 patients reviewed, 66% had been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, 17% were suffering from schizosaffective disorder. Seventeen per cent were diagnosed with other disorders. These included Bi-Polar Affective Disorder, Psychotic Depression, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Affectve Psychosis, Organic Psychosis, Recurrent Severe Depressive Disorder with Psychotic Features and Psychotic Episode/Acute Psychotic Episode.
The majority of review hearings were of patients who had been committed to the Central Mental Hospital, having been found not guilty of an offence by reason of insanity. The second largest number of review hearings were of patients, who as prisoners, had been transferred involuntarily to the Central Mental Hospital for care or treatment which could not be provided in prison.
The Board approved the conditional discharge of six patients from the Central Mental Hospital in 2020.