Prison not the place for mental health cases

Judge expresses concerns over psychiatric services

Prison not the place for mental health cases

District Court Judge Catherine Staines has expressed huge concerns over the number of people with mental difficulties who are currently in custody waiting to be assessed by the psychiatric services.

Her remarks came last week during the case of a 23-year-old man convicted of threatening his own mother with a knife, who has been remanded in custody for a psychiatric report even though Judge Staines stated that prison is not the proper place for him.

Akeem Alabi (23), with an address listed in the Portlaoise area, was previously convicted at the district court back in April of breaching a barring order.

In the incident, which happened back in March at a Portlaoise housing estate, the accused threatened his mother with a knife.

At the April court, the man’s mother gave evidence that her son was not getting the proper help he needed for his mental difficulties.

On that date, Judge Catherine Staines adjourned the matter for a psychiatric report.

When the case returned to court last week, there was no psychiatric report on the accused as previously directed, and Judge Staines said she wanted to know why.

Defence, Ms Sara Brennan said she could not get any coherent answers from her client. She said she had very serious concerns about him, and about his fitness to plead.

Inspector Jer Glavin told the judge that the Prison Service had said they were waiting for a psychiatrist to assess the accused.

Said Judge Staines: “It’s a huge concern to me the number of people with psychiatric problems in our prisons, and yes they have committed a criminal offence but they’re just not being seen. It’s not acceptable someone being kept in custody for a psychiatric report.”

The judge continued: “This is a serious charge of domestic violence and this man is clearly a danger and clearly needs help, but I don’t think prison is the proper place for him at all.”

The accused was remanded in custody to May 25. Judge Staines said that if there was no psychiatric report on him on that date, she would require the Governor of the prison or the person in charge of the psychiatric services to explain why.