HSE West officials have again told a judge they do not have the funding to provide specialist residential treatment to a brain-damaged teenager who had been terrorising women in Galway City.
The HSE comments come despite four psychiatrists recommending that he receive the care.
The case made the headlines three weeks ago when Judge Gerard Griffin ordered the HSE West’s top officials to come to court to explain why they had no problem paying legal teams €800 an hour to represent them in court while claiming they had money problems.
Hearing that the HSE had stopped funding services for Tyrone Crockford, aged 19, who had been in HSE care since he was 10, and who suffers from psychiatric and psychological difficulties due to a brain injury, Judge Gerard Griffin said: “It amazes me in all my time on the bench that they [the HSE] seem to send in [to court] senior counsel, junior counsel, and solicitors who charge €800 an hour and then say they have no money.”
That was on Nov 7 and since then the HSE’s Catherine Cunningham has attended Galway Circuit Criminal Court twice to answer the judge’s concerns about Crockford’s ongoing care.
She had rejected a proposal by psychiatrists who had assessed Crockford and recommended he be treated at the residential Nua Treatment Centre in Co Kildare.
That programme would cost €300,000 and the HSE simply did not have the money, she told the court two weeks ago.
She pointed out at the time that funding for other vulnerable people would have to be cut if the HSE spent that much on one person and she warned Judge Griffin that if the HSE went down that route it would be setting a dangerous precedent.
Ms Cunningham told the judge she had been working with various agencies since Crockford was taken into custody in January and they had come up with a programme of care for him.
She said the HSE would send therapeutic service providers into the prison to assess and treat Crockford while he was in custody and that on his release the disability services would provide apartment accommodation for him.
Judge Griffin adjourned the matter for two weeks to give Ms Cunningham a chance to put her proposals in writing and submit them to the psychiatrists and to Sally Linehan from the Central Mental Hospital, in particular, who had recommended the Nua Centre as the best course of treatment.
Crockford, who pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted robbery and one count of using a knife in the course of one of the attacks, has been held on remand at Castlerea Prison since his arrest in January.
He sat smiling and talking to himself at times in court yesterday as the judge and both legal teams discussed his fate.
Kevin Dinneen BL, defending, said that given the latest proposal from the HSE the matter had reached an impasse.
“The four psychiatrists all recommend a controlled secure environment and Dr Linehan recommends Nua Treatment Centre but the HSE say they cannot afford that. Meanwhile, Dr Linehan cannot recommend the HSE proposal,” he said.
Judge Griffin told him he did not have the jurisdiction to force the HSE to fund the Nua treatment.
“I cannot order the payment because as it says in the HSE letter thousands of others would suffer. What is suggested by Ms Cunningham is the best of a bad lot.
“We would all like to see full-time placement for him but that is not going to happen for financial reasons.”
Judge Griffin said he would prefer to remand the young man in custody until such time as the services were in place, rather than impose a sentence now, in case his condition improved quickly.
He remanded Crockford in custody to Feb 19, during which time, Ms Cunningham said, he would receive therapeutic services in prison provided by HSE staff.
Judge Griffin said he would propose “shortish” remands after that until such time as the services were up and running to provide continued care for the young man.
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