A woman who has repeatedly attempted self harm and has committed over 80 violent incidents in care, including attacking gardaí, hospital staff and court staff, cannot be looked after by the HSE as the Irish Mental Health Act does not recognise her personality disorder as a mental illness.
Last week’s district court heard from a solicitor for the HSE that it would cost €48,000 per week for the woman to receive three-to-one care, but Nua Healthcare have withdrawn due to her violent behaviour against staff.
Eileen Mullin, with an address listed at The Bungalow, Nua Healthcare, Athgarvan, Newbridge, faced a number of charges.
Inspector Oliver Baker gave evidence that after exiting Portlaoise Courthouse on October 20, the accused stood in the middle of the road stopping traffic and lifted her top, exposing herself.
“She was shouting: “F**k you all, you’re all liars’.”
In what was believed to be a reference to Judge Catherine Staines, the accused also shouted: “She told me it’s not her job to get housing, f**k her.”
Insp Baker said that Mullin then pulled her trousers down and exposed herself, before she went across to Colgan Sports and knocked over a mannequin.
Insp Baker further gave evidence that on July 10, at a special sitting of the court, the accused refused to sign her bail bond and became aggressive. She went behind the clerk’s desk and struck the court clerk by slapping her in the face. The clerk was out of work for six weeks suffering stress as a result.
On October 19, at the Midlands Hospital in Portlaoise, the accused acted in an aggressive manner towards members of the public and the gardaí. The accused had a number of previous convictions, including assaults and public order offences.
Defence solicitor Ms Caroline Egan said her client suffered with mental health issues since her early teens, and had attempted to harm herself seriously on several occasions. Ms Egan said that she herself had once come across the accused lying collapsed in the street, after she was not accepted by a hospital. “She called me for help, she had no money, no mobile phone,” said Ms Egan, going on to say that her client had also tried to jump into the river on one occasion.
Ms Egan said that things had gone downhill since then, with self harm issues and the accused trying to set herself alight. She added that her client had once gone to the council to try to get a house, but the council put her into a taxi and sent her back to the hospital. The accused’s brother had taken her in, but matters escalated and he was not able to cope.
Ms Egan said that her client had been with Nua Healthcare for 18 months, but Nua “are not interested anymore”, to which Judge Staines remarked: “That’s because of violent behaviour against staff.”
Referring to a report on the accused, Judge Staines noted there were over 80 aggressive incidents, including arson, throwing a pot of water at prison staff, and trying to bite hospital staff.
The judge said the report indicated the accused had a severe personality disorder.
“Society has to be protected,” said Judge Staines, adding that the accused had assaulted a court clerk and staff. “She’s clearly in need of some help. She begged me to find her somewhere to stay, but I can’t do that.”
A solicitor for the HSE said the accused is not detainable under the Mental Health Act as she has a personality disorder. The solicitor said that Dr Lorcan Martin would say that a previous diagnosis Mullin received in the UK was incorrect.
The HSE solicitor also said that Nua Healthcare had declined to engage with the accused. It had been suggested to engage with her on a three -to-one basis, which would cost €48,000 a week, but Nua had withdrawn.
Dr Martin, a consultant psychiatrist, gave evidence that a personality disorder was a cluster of traits that caused a person difficulty functioning with daily life.
However, he said a personality disorder differed from such conditions as schizophrenia and bipolar, as the individual retains the ability to make decisions.
He said that since the accused had returned from the UK, he and a number of other HSE professionals had formed the opinion she had a borderline personality disorder, but there was no evidence of mental illness.
He said that even repeated suicide attempts did not come under the Mental Health Act, unless they were in the context of a mental illness. Dr Martin said that the Mental Health Act in the UK was different, as it included personality disorder.
In response to questioning from Ms Egan regarding the accused being turned away from hospital, Dr Martin said: “It’s not the responsibility of the hospital to provide accommodation for someone not admitted.” He agreed that the accused had been allowed to walk out of the hospital grounds with no money and no phone.
After hearing Dr Martin’s evidence, Judge Staines remarked that he seemed to think the accused could live independently. To this, the accused herself spoke up, saying: “I’ll hang myself.”
Judge Staines said that the Irish Mental Health Act needed to be changed. “Does the court have to wait until she kills someone, or herself?” she asked.
Judge Staines said she would put the matter back to November 17 to get an up-to-date psychiatric report on the accused from another doctor who had previously examined her. However, the accused became extremely irate at this point, saying she would not go back to prison.
Gardaí had to restrain the accused and the courtroom was cleared. The accused was remanded in custody to November 17.
n A shorter version of this story appeared on the Leinster Express website last week, after which we were contacted by Nua Healthcare who stated that the figure given by the HSE solicitor of €48,000 per week for three to one care was “totally factually incorrect”.
Nua Healthcare was asked to clarify the costs, but no response was received at the time of going to press.