Woman to return home after 20 months in UK unit

A judge has granted a vulnerable young woman’s plea for her return to Ireland after being detained more than 20 months in a specialised psychiatric unit in England against her wishes.

Woman to return home after 20 months in UK unit

The woman, on consent of the HSE and lawyers for herself, her parents, and a court-appointed guardian, is to return this week.

The 18-year-old, who has a borderline personality disorder making her prone to unpredictable episodes of self-harm, including trying to take her life, has spent almost all of the last four years in psychiatric units in Ireland and England.

Legal proceedings concerning her care and treatment have involved costs estimated at over €1m while the annual costs of her care in St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton were €400,000. Such costs would have built a purpose-built unit for her here, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan observed.

In March the High Court directed that an arrangement should be put in place for her return to Ireland by June 12.

The HSE later brought proceedings arguing that her circumstances had changed since that order of Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon. Those circumstances included a view of some doctors that she could not be kept safe in the Irish services and should remain in the UK unit where high levels of security could be put in place.

The further proceedings, involving six senior counsel, at least three juniors, and six solicitors, came before Mr Justice Noonan some 23 times, ultimately leading to the HSE accepting that the woman has capacity to make decisions about her treatment and no longer seeking to have her detained further in England.

The case raised complex legal issues related to the High Court’s jurisdiction to order the involuntary detention in a psychiatric unit in England of an Irish adult with a personality disorder when Irish mental health legislation specifically prohibits the involuntary detention of adults with personality disorders.

The view of the Oireachtas, that personality disorder should not be subject to involuntary detention, is shared by other jurisdictions, including Scotland and Wales, Mr Justice Noonan noted.

He was told yesterday that lawyers for the HSE, the woman, her parents, and her court-appointed guardian all agree she has the necessary legal capacity to make decisions regarding her treatment and should be returned to Ireland.

While all sides agreed a provisional arrangement put in place by the HSE for her to be treated on a voluntary basis in a psychiatric ward of a general hospital is not the most appropriate for her, it was hoped that would be very short term and she will move soon to an adult psychiatric hospital, and, later onto a private facility which can afford her appropriate treatment.

Once the woman arrives in Ireland, she can choose whether she engages with the services put in place for her. She previously said she would do so.

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