A JUDGE has expressed concern about the charge laid against a former psychiatric patient who attacked a nurse.
Judge Mary Devins was commenting at last week’s sitting of Castlebar District Court after hearing a resident under the care of the HSE Mental Health Services assaulted a member of staff in what was described as a ‘frenzied’ attack.
The court heard that the patient, Ronnie Maloney (40) of 26 Cois Abhainn, Turlough Road, Castlebar, punched Harry Kenny, a clincial nurse manager, knocking him to the ground and repeatedly kicking and punching him while he was on the floor.
The incident occurred on December 6, 2015, at the Teach Aisling residential unit, where Mr Maloney was residing at the time. The court heard that Mr Kenny was brought to hospital following the incident and that he had suffered injuries to his shoulder, for which he was still requiring extensive physiotherapy.
Mr Maloney was charged with assault. This was questioned by Judge Devins, who asked why a charge of assault causing harm was not considered. Inspector Gary Walsh said a medical report was not on the file and the directions of the DPP was for a Section Two assault.
Judge Devins said it was odd that a direction had been given without a medical report, and she questioned why the direction was given so quickly. She felt that the surrounding circumstances of the case were ‘pertinent’ and needed to be dealt with, and she asked for the file to be sent back to the DPP.
Judge Devins said she could not ignore Mr Maloney’s mental health problems, adding that she was ‘very wary of the situation’, as a number of similar cases had ended in tragedy.
The court heard that Mr Maloney is no longer a resident of the mental health services and was currently diagnosed as ‘not mentally ill’. However in the past had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, epilepsy, anxiety and depression, as well as paranoid schizophrenia.
Mr Maloney pleaded guilty to the offence, but his solicitor, Thomas Walsh, said he had a difficulty with his capacity to plead. Mr Walsh said he was worried about his client going to prison, as the facilities are not suitable for people with psychiatric illnesses.
Addressing the court, Mr Kenny said he recalled being knocked unconscious during the attack and being repeatedly kicked and punched in the side of the body. He said it seemed ‘like forever’ before staff pulled Mr Maloney away from him.
Mr Maloney told the court he was remorseful for what he did and gave an undertaking he would not come into contact with the gardaí again. He added that his fiancée is expecting their first child and that he wanted to settle down.
Judge Devins agreed to adjourn the case until March 15 to allow the prosecution to resubmit the file to the DPP and for a further psychiatric report.