A woman with severe learning difficulties is facing the prospect of being held in custody after the health trust responsible for her care was unable to find suitable accommodation.
The woman, who is not being identified, suffers from behavioural issues and due to a number of factors has been unable to continue residing with her family.
On a previous occasion it was disclosed her behaviour deteriorated after attending a medical appointment, and she reacted poorly on returning home, to the extent police had to be called.
She was charged with a number of counts of assault and criminal damage.
While her family have tried to do their best, the situation has now reached a point they cannot cope.
A defence barrister requested the court to agree to release her on bail, subject to an address approved by police and Social Services.
“My client has a learning disability diagnoses. She has a number of social workers, and I have received an email from one stating, at present, the Trust do not have any place to put her, unfortunately.
“They are working to try to get somewhere. She previously resided with family, but they are not in a position now to care for her.
“Unfortunately, an alternative address has now fallen through.”
The defence added: “I don’t know whether she would be suitable for hospitalisation, as has happened in the past, or it may be a matter of finding an alternative residential setting.
“But at present, there is nowhere for her to go.”
Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare ordered the woman to be released to an address approved by police and Social Services, but stressed: “If this is a Mental Health Order case, then obviously it’s up to the Trust and clinicians to make sure that is engaged.
“Custody is not the best place for the defendant at this point and time.”
The Western Health and Social Care Trust were asked what assessments and/or treatment have been carried out, and what measures are in place to assist the woman?
Does she have a key worker or similar?
Why was she released after a recent hospital admission due to her deteriorating mental health, then discharged when clearly not fit or adequately supported in the community, to the extent she is back in court?
What are the Trust’s procedures in these instances, and contingency plans for situations of acute need such as this?
Finally, under duty of care to a vulnerable person, how has this woman not been protected at the appropriate level, to such an extent she is now within the criminal justice system?
A spokesperson replied: “Respecting confidentially, the Western Trust does not comment on individual cases.
“The Trust welcomes discussions with individuals and families in relation to issues of mental health and will work closely with all agencies to ensure that appropriate and proportionate care is delivered through an integrated multi-agency approach.
“The Trust would also note that all patients within the Trust’s care receive a full range of appropriate assessments, and where clinical need is established, the Trust will act to provide services in line with any assessed need.”