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Judge slams public-order arrests of people with mental-health issues


A JUDGE claimed that arresting people with mental health problems for minor public order offences does not help anyone, and serves only to highlights deficiencies in the mental health system.
Judge Mary Devins made her comments at last week’s sitting of Westport District Court when striking out a charge of intoxication in a public place against a man who has mental heath difficulties.
Saying that while she appreciates that members of the public may make a complaint to the Gardaí, she added that she believes there is no point in issuing a summons for public order for people with mental health problems. She said the only penalty she could impose was a monetary one, which is not going to help the gentleman in question and will ‘certainly not help the guards’.
“This highlights the tension between the criminal justice system and the deficiencies in the mental health system,” she said before striking out the charge against the man, who was not present in court.
Judge Devins had made similar comments the day previously at Castlebar District Court, when a woman with mental health difficulties failed to appear in court charged with intoxication in a public place.
She also struck out the charge against her saying a fine was ‘not a deterrent in the slightest’, dubbing the whole process a ‘charade’.

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