Accused had ‘severe mental illness’

A 20-year-old man was suffering from “an acute exacerbation” of schizophrenia when he brandished knives towards two passers-by and six gardaí, a court has heard.

The court heard from consultant psychiatrist Paul O’Connell that Paul Clarke’s medication had been reduced prior to the incident, which may have precipitated a relapse of his condition.

The jury was told the defence are accepting that the facts are correct but contending that Mr Clarke was suffering from a mental illness at the time to such an extent that he is entitled to a defence of insanity.

Mr Clarke, of St Cronan’s Avenue, Swords, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting two civilians and six gardaí in Swords on June 22, 2012.

He has also pleaded not guilty to possession of a knife, producing two large kitchen knives, and breach of the peace on the same occasion. A count of intoxication in a public place has been withdrawn.

The Criminal Law Insanity Act outlines that if the accused had a mental disorder at the time such that he did not know the nature of what he was doing, did not know it was wrong, or was unable to stop himself from doing it, the jury can return a special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Kerida Naidoo, prosecuting, told the jury that in the event of this “special verdict” being returned, Mr Clarke will be assessed and treated by the Central Mental Hospital.

Mícheál P O’Higgins, defending, said in his closing speech that mental health problems were prevalent in our community and few families have not been touched by mental illness.

“The law, in its best efforts to deal with the matter, draws a distinction between a criminal and a patient who is unwell,” he said.

“It tries not to brand someone who is unwell as a criminal, hence the special verdict.”

He told the jury their task was to decide if, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Clarke was suffering from a mental illness and if, as a result, any or all of the three conditions laid out in the Criminal Law Insanity Act are met.

Teresa Clarke, Mr Clarke’s mother, told Mr O’Higgins that her son had been a “good lad” growing up but became unwell in his teenage years.

Judge Sarah Berkeley will deliver her charge to the jury on Monday morning.

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