Man on murder charge pleads guilty to manslaughter

A man being tried for the murder of an elderly man in a psychiatric unit in Co Cavan has changed his plea to guilty of manslaughter.

Ian Harman, aged 50, of Carrickallen, Mountain Lodge, Cootehill, Co Cavan, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Michael Treanor, 82, at the Psychiatric Unit of Cavan General Hospital, Lisdarn, Co Cavan, on June 27, 2011.

The trial was in its closing stages, but yesterday Harman was rearraigned before the Central Criminal Court and pleaded not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

Paddy McCarthy, SC, prosecuting, told the court that the plea was acceptable to the Director of Public Prosecutions on the basis of Section 6 of the Criminal Law Insanity Act. Under the act the jury or court may find the person not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan thanked the jury and told them the case had concluded.

Mr Justice Sheehan remanded Harman in custody for sentencing on October 6.

Mr Treanor was suffering from dementia and Harman was admitted to the unit on June 20, 2011, as a voluntary patient after attempting suicide. Harman smothered the elderly man with a pillow after strangling him with a belt. He had admitted killing him, but denied murder. His legal team argued he was not guilty of murder either by reason of insanity or diminished responsibility.

Caroline Biggs SC with Breffni Gordon BL, instructed by Damien Rudden Solicitors, claimed he was suffering from a mental illness as an anti-psychotic medication Harman was taking had been withdrawn the day after he was admitted to the unit.

Two defence witnesses claimed that the withdrawal of olanzapine caused him to suffer from akathisia, an inner restlessness, which caused Harman to feel suicidal and pace up and down the unit constantly in the days before the killing.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Bob Johnson and clinical pharmacologist Dr Andrew Herxheimer gave evidence for the defence that Harman was suffering from the syndrome, which they said was a mental disorder.

Dr Johnson said Harman’s responsibility for the killing was not only diminished, it was destroyed and he was unable to refrain from the act meaning he was insane.


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