A 32-year-old Co Kilkenny man has been committed to the Central Mental Hospital after being found not guilty of murdering his mother by reason of insanity.
A jury acquitted Niall Stapleton of murdering his mother following a trial earlier this week, after hearing he was suffering from schizophrenia when he attacked her last year.
The Central Criminal Court heard that he had received a head injury a month before he was diagnosed with the illness five years ago.
Mr Stapleton of Glebe Lodge, Kilfane, Thomastown had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Siobhan Stapleton (51) at that address on May 25, 2012. She died from blunt force trauma to the head, after being beaten with the handle of a garden implement.
A four-day trail heard that the college graduate believed his mother had been replaced by an impostor when he killed her.
Forensic psychiatrists for both the prosecution and defence agreed that he met the requirement for the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Following the verdict, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan committed Mr Stapleton to the Central Mental Hospital for preparation of a report, which was prepared by Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist Damian Mohan.
Dr Mohan told the court that he had been treating Mr Stapleton as an inpatient at the hospital for the past year.
He noted that his patient had suffered a head injury in 2008, a month before his first hospital admission for schizophrenia and said that this may have been a contributory factor in his disorder.
Dr Mohan said Mr Stapleton had been extremely ill and experiencing distressing auditory hallucinations when first admitted to the Central Mental Hospital in June 2012. However he had made progress since commencing appropriate medication and therapy.
He said his patient’s illness had been complicated by drug and alcohol problems, but said he had engaged positively in treatment programmes while in hospital.
The doctor added that his clinical improvement was also helped by the support of his family.
He said Mr Stapleton was polite and courteous when he examined him on Thursday and it was the doctor’s view that his hallucinations were much less intense.
“He accepts he was unwell and needs ongoing treatment and he expressed a willingness to comply,” he said.
“My main concern is that, if at liberty, Mr Stapleton would stop taking his medication and that would increase the risk of potential violence or drug use,” said the doctor. “For that reason, I believe he’d benefit from treatment in an approved centre.”
He said that if not hospitalised, it would be only a matter of time until he had a relapse. However he said Mr Stapleton would gradually be stepped down through the levels of security and eventually be ready for conditional discharge.
“It’s hoped that with the passage of time, supervision can move from hospital-based to community-based,” he explained.
He said Mr Stapleton would be best returned to a therapeutic setting and said there was a bed available for him in the Central Mental Hospital.
Mr Justice Sheehan said he was constrained by the fact that there was only one designated centre for the purpose in Ireland. He committed Mr Stapleton to the Central Mental Hospital until such time as a different order is made.