Jury decides man with paranoid schizophrenia should be made ward of court

By Ann O'Loughlin

A jury has found a man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia should be placed under the protection of the High Court despite his request that he not be made a ward of court.

"I want to do my own thing, like", he told the jury which had earlier heard from three psychiatrists that he would be a danger to himself and others if granted his wish.

The jury found he was a person of unsound mind and incapable of looking after his personal property following an application to court by the HSE.

President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said he would deal with the consequences of the decision at next week's normal wardship hearings.

Earlier, he explained to the jury, in response to a question from the foreman, that wardship was not permanent and there had been a number of cases where people with mental illness had recovered and been discharged from wardship. This was one of 2,600 cases in the State which he, as president of the High Court, currently has responsibility for, he said.

The man, whose main family tie is to his seriously ill father, also has a borderline personality disorder and, when he previously lived on his own in a city flat, had a chaotic lifestyle and abused a number of substances, the court heard.

He is currently living in a sheltered facility with round-the-clock carers. Due to relapses and assaults, including on his carers, he has had to be transferred on occcasion temporarily to a secure mental facility. He self harms and on a number of occasions attempted suicide.

Three psychiatrists believed he should be made a ward of court as he was a person of unsound mind who would be unable to look after himself if allowed to live on his own.

The psychiatrist who is the lead clinician in the man's treatment, said before he was placed in supervised accommodation, he had been living in a flat paid for by the HSE and receiving €193 a week. However, he was drinking and self harming to such an extent that he was at one point anaemic from cutting himself so frequently, the doctor said.

He led a life endangering and chaotic lifestyle, the doctor said.

He likes jewellery and when he received his weekly payment, he would go to a jewellers and buy an item but a short time afterwards, when he realised all his money was gone, he would return to the jewellers and get perhaps half the money he paid back for what he bought.

Although he receives a high degree of medication, the personality disorder requires ongoing psychological therapy.

One of the key symptoms of his condition was a delusion that people round him were trying to harm him through food or cigarettes, including those who care for him. He has assaulted people due to a belief that they posed a threat to him, the doctor said.

The man, who the court heard had a difficult upbringing involving psychological, emotional and sexual abuse and had been in care for some years, said he had three brothers and two sisters who were in foster care. He said he visited his father in hospital after he suffered a heart attack.

He set aside around €50 a week to buy jewellery and might buy something for €600 from a pawn shop. He disagreed he would only get half when he brought the item back.

His days in sheltered accommodation involved at least one member of staff accompanying him at all times, whether to the post office to collect his money, or on outings to nearby towns.

Asked by his own counsel about the evidence of the three psychiatrists, he said: "I am able to look after myself".

He insisted he could manage his own affairs and did not wish to be a ward because he knew it meant "restrictions".

The jury took just over 15 minutes to decide on its unanimous verdict.

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