The annual report of the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board (MHRB) shows that it granted a conditional discharge to four patients last year, compared with six in 2021.
The board also granted unconditional discharges to three of four patients who made such applications – the other was withdrawn.
The independent body held 180 reviews of the detention of 82 patients – down slightly from 196 reviews linked to 87 patients in 2021. Of the patients reviewed last year, 34 had been charged with, or convicted of, murder
The board, which was set up in 2006 under section 11 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, reviews the detention of patients who have been referred to designated centres after a court decision that they are unfit to stand trial, or those who have been found not guilty of an offence by reason of insanity.
‘Reasonable belief’ on breach
The report says that, in November, Dr Brenda Wright, the interim executive clinical director of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), recalled one conditionally discharged patient to the hospital on the grounds that she had a reasonable belief that the patient was in material breach of their order.
Under legislation, the MRHB must review the detention of each patient at intervals of not greater than six months, but additional hearings can also be held on the initiative of the board, or at the request of a patient or the CMH’s clinical director.
There are usually between 80 and 90 patients detained in the CMH under the 2006 act.
The board must assign a legal representative to each patient subject to a review, and it set up a panel of legal representatives for this purpose in 2006.
At the end of 2022, there were 23 members on this panel. Two addition members were appointed – including one re-appointment – but four resigned.
The average number of cases assigned to solicitors on the panel in 2022 was seven, according to the board’s annual report.
During 2022, the CMH moved from Dundrum to Portrane.
Writing in the annual report, MRHB chair Iarfhlaith O’Neill said that the move had gone smoothly, and that patients had settled into the new facilities.