Thursday, July 22, 2021

A man was lawfully detained in a mental health centre despite his release having been permitted after it was discovered the wrong name and date of birth was written on a form when he first detained, the High Court ruled.

The man’s lawyers had challenged his detention after he said he wanted to leave the centre when the mistake in his name and birth date were found by a Mental Health Tribunal to affect the substance of an order which had already been made renewing his detention. That would, the tribunal said, cause an injustice.

The man was detained on May 21st last having come to the attention of the gardaí and taken to a local hospital. He was found to be suffering from a mental disorder and an order admitting him to the psychiatric centre was renewed on June 10th.

Religious delusions

The court heard he was psychotic with religious delusions and expressed to his wife that he would need to kill his son because he was directed to by his beliefs.

On June 30th, a Mental Health Tribunal convened for the purpose of renewing the detention order, which lasts 21 days, and submissions were made on the man’s behalf that the wrong name and birth date had been put both on the patient notification form and the previous renewal order.

As a result, the tribunal, while concluding the man was suffering from a mental disorder, said the mistake should not have been made and revoked the previous renewal order of June 10th.

When he was informed of the tribunal’s decision he instructed his solicitor that he wished to leave the mental health facility. When his solicitor asked for this, staff at the facility invoked the law allowing them to detain him as a voluntary patient as he required treatment.

Habeas corpus

His solicitor then brought a habeas corpus application to the High Court against the clinical director of the mental health facility seeking his release. The respondent opposed the application.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland ruled that despite his clearly stated desire to leave, he was being “treated” within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 2001.

He therefore came within the definition of a voluntary patient and, in the circumstances, his detention was not unlawful, she said.

He was continuing to be treated immediately after he learned of the revocation of his detention order, which meant he was a voluntary patient under Section 2 of the Act.

That treatment continued for 70 minutes until the power under the Act to prevent a person leaving (Sections 23 and 24) was invoked by the centre staff, she said.

She concluded the clinical director of the facility was entitled to invoke the procedures to prevent him leaving. She refused the order of habeas corpus.

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