Half of Central Mental Hospital admissions relate to murder

Half of Central Mental Hospital admissions relate to murder

Half of all patients who are detained in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) have been charged with, or convicted of, murder, writes Caroline O'Doherty.

The majority of victims were family members.

A further quarter were charged with, or convicted of, attempted murder, manslaughter, or causing death by dangerous driving. Many of their victims were also family members.

Forty of the 81 people in detention in the CMH last year were charged with, or convicted of, murder. That is 10% of all those in Irish prisons for the same offence.

Twenty-five of the victims were family members and 10 others were friends or acquaintances.

Eight other patients were charged with, or convicted of, attempted murder, manslaughter, or death by dangerous driving, while 16 were involved in serious physical assaults.

Four were involved in arson, while others were detained for offences including sexual assault, the attempted abduction of a child, threats to kill, harassment, possession of a firearm or knives, a threat to set a garda station on fire, blackmail/extortion, threatening and abusive behaviour, and false imprisonment.

The CMH is the only hospital for people involved in serious crimes, and patients are referred there primarily when they are found unfit to stand trial, or found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Others are transferred there from prisons — both voluntarily and involuntarily — when they need psychiatric treatment that cannot be provided in the general prison system.

Most of the patients — 73 of the 81 — were men, and schizophrenia and the related condition, schizoaffective disorder, were by far the most common diagnoses, accounting for 68% and 14% of patients, respectively.

The patient snapshot comes from the annual report of the Mental Health Criminal Law Review Board, which independently reviews the detention of such patients and considers requests for conditional and unconditional discharge.

Since the board was set up in 2006, patients have been legally entitled to have a review every six months.

For the first time, a patient has had their 25th review, while 11 were on 24 reviews.

This means that they have been detained at the hospital for at least 12 years.

Five of the 81 patients reviewed in 2016 were granted a conditional discharge, enabling them to leave hospital subject to stipulations about where they live, who they contact, and what treatment they receive.

Five other patients requested unconditional discharge, but just one request was granted — to a patient who was already on conditional discharge for a year.

All patients are entitled to free representation by a solicitor from a panel of 24. the board chair, retired judge Iarfhlaith O’Neill, noted in his report.

“Because of their illness, many patients are unable to speak for themselves and many of the legal representatives on the panel assist their clients in ways which far exceed their remit,” he said.

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.


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