By Ann O'Loughlin
A judge has expressed concern whether a young asylum seeker receiving specialised healthcare costing €27,000 monthly in a private facility here is engaged in an “elaborate hoax”.
The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, stressed there was no finding of hoax at this stage and he would await investigations by the HSE but he was concerned recent medical evidence suggested the man “has been acting out a part”.
Aged in his 20s and from a war-torn African country, the man arrived here in 2015 in unexplained circumstances.
He sought asylum in early July 2015 at a direct provision centre where he presented a piece of paper with his name, country of origin and language and the words: "I am not normal mental". He was entered on the records of the Office of the Refugee Applications Commission but his asylum application could not be processed pending medical assessment.
A week later, after being found by gardaí wandering in a confused state on a road near the centre, he was taken to hospital and medical assessments expressed the view he has an intellectual disability or had acquired a brain injury.
Members of his family living in the US supplied information he had suffered a head injury in his teens as a result of an accident and later served with the army in his home country during which time his mental health deteriorated. He was said to be mute for a five year period.
He was made a ward of court after being assessed as lacking capacity to manage his own affairs and placed in an acute hospital unit for more than a year before being moved in recent months to a private healthcare facility.
His case has been in the wards of court list a number of times.
When it returned this week to Mr Justice Kelly, Sarah McKechnie BL, for the HSE, said recent medical scans and reports indicated the man does not appear to be brain injured and raised concerns how he came to Ireland and whether there was a "conscious fabrication" of symptoms. The HSE intended to investigate the matter, she added.
She said members of the man's family living in the US had expressed some desire to take him there but were told the fact he is a ward of court raised issues in that regard.
In the circumstances, including the man having made a number of efforts to abscond, she wanted orders continuing his detention in the healthcare facility.
Mr Justice Kelly said the recent material appears to indicate “nothing abnormal”. A neuropsychiatrist had also queried whether there may have been a “conscious fabrication” of symptoms of brain injury for immigration reasons.
The medical evidence, along with the man’s ability to interact with his family, appeared to suggest he has been “acting out a part”, the judge said. If this was a hoax, the man has been taking up “enormously costly health services”.
Stressing he was making no findings of a hoax at this stage, he adjourned the matter to allow the HSE investigate, continued orders for the man's detention and said the immigration authorities should be notified.
If found not to be brain-injured, the man will be discharged from wardship and his family can deal with the situation, he said.