B (J) v Director of Central Mental Hospital

JudgeMr. Justice McGovern
Judgment Date04 May 2007
Neutral Citation[2007] IEHC 147
CourtHigh Court
Date04 May 2007

[2007] IEHC 147

The High Court

[No. 434 SS/2007]
(J) v Director of Central Mental Hospital
in the matter of an application for an Inquiry pursuant to Article 40.4 of the Constitution of Ireland,


J. B.


The Director of the Central Mental Hospital and Dr. Ronan Ahearne











Lawfulness - Temporary chargeable patient - Opinion to be formed by certifying medical officer - Extension of period of detention - Procedure on expiry of maximum detention period - Whether section operable on more than one occasion - JH v Russell, Director of Cavan General Hospital [2007] IEHC 7, (Unrep, Clarke J, 6/2/2007) considered - Mental Treatment Act 1945 (No 19), ss 184 and 189 - Mental Treatment Act 1961 (No 7) - Mental Health Act 2001 (No 25), s 72 - Constitution of Ireland 1937, Article 40.4.2 - Detention found to be lawful (2007/434SS - McGovern J - 4/5/2007) [2007] IEHC 147B(J) v Director of Central Mental Hospital

the applicant had been involuntarily admitted and detained in the respondent’s hospital under section 184 of the Mental Treatment Act 1945. That detention order had been extended twice, making a total detention period under the order of eighteen months. A new section 184 order was made after the end of that initial period of detention, which was also extended twice. The applicant sought his release pursuant to Article 40.4 of the Constitution. It was contended on behalf of the applicant that his detention was unlawful as, in effect, he had been detained under section 184 of the Act of 1945 for a total period of 36 months, which frustrated the purpose of section 184. The respondent contended that section 184 could be operated on more than one occasion if the circumstances justified it and was more appropriate than the more drastic option of declaring a person to be of unsound mind.

Held by Mr Justice McGovern in declaring that the applicant’s detention was lawful that the courts should adopt a purposive approach in interpreting the provisions of the Mental Treatment Acts. However, in so doing, the courts should not encroach upon or usurp the constitutional role of the Oireachtas. There was nothing in the Act of 1945 which prevented section 184 being used on more than one occasion depending on the circumstances of each case. If a fresh section 184 application was brought in circumstances which did not make it a fiction or a contrived means of getting around the intention of the provisions of the Act of 1945 with regard to temporary chargeable patient reception orders, it was not unlawful.

Reporter: P.C.


1. This application concerns an inquiry into the detention of J. B. who is currently detained in the Central Mental Hospital.

The Facts

2. The applicant was born on the 20th June, 1980 and came from a troubled family background. He is one of eight children. His family came to the attention of the relevant area Health Board in 1985, as there were concerns of domestic violence and physical abuse by the applicant's father. An inquiry established that one of the applicant's sisters had been repeatedly sexually abused by the applicant and another sibling and there is evidence to suggest that the applicant himself had been sexually abused between the ages of eight and eleven by a teenage male neighbour. The applicant was expelled from school and began steeling from shops, drinking and smoking cannabis from the age of thirteen. He also experimented with other drugs. In 1996, J. B. was convicted of steeling a motor vehicle and spent four years in St. Patrick's Institution. In 1998, he was again charged with stealing a vehicle and remanded in St. Patrick's Institution. On the 7th December, 2000, he was charged with criminal damage and received a sentence of sixteen months. He also received a sentence for sexual abuse and for unlawful carnal knowledge of a thirteen year old female. On the 28th January, 2002, after completing his sentence he was rearrested on a charge of sexual abuse of one of his sisters. Sadly he has had a very troubled background indeed.


3. J. B.'s first contact with the psychiatric services was in January, 1988, when he was seven years old. He was referred due to behavioural problems which were understood to originate from his parents marital disharmony and family violence. At the age of sixteen he harmed himself by cutting his elbow while smashing it into a window. At the age of nineteen he took overdoses of drugs on two occasions. While in prison in 2000, J. B. was assessed by a consultant forensic psychiatrist. At this time he had been reporting strange bodily experiences and exhibited signs of psychotic behaviour and paranoia. He has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia, alcohol dependence syndrome, harmful cannabis use and paraphilia (a preference for adolescent girls).


4. There is no doubt that he has been a danger to himself and to others, particularly adolescent girls, and that he required treatment as an involuntary patient in psychiatric institutions. Between April, 2004 and April, 2007, he has been detained as a temporary chargeable patient under the provisions of s. 184 of the Mental Treatment Acts 1945 to 1961 and it is the legality of that detention which is challenged in these proceedings.

Section 184 Orders and Extensions

5. On the 22nd April, 2004, the applicant's mother applied for an order for the detention of the applicant as a temporary patient and as a chargeable patient in an approved institution pursuant to s. 184 of the Mental Treatment Act 1945 (hereinafter referred to as "the 1945 Act"). As required under the legislation a certificate of a registered medical practitioner accompanied the application. The certificate was signed on the 28th April, 2004 and stated that the practitioner was of the opinion that J. B. was suffering from mental illness and required for his recovery not more than six months suitable treatment and was unfit on account of his mental state for treatment as a voluntary patient. Dr. Ronan Ahearne a consultant psychiatrist signed the order for reception on the 28th April, 2004.


6. On the 28th October, 2004, Dr. Ahearne signed an endorsement extending the detention of J. B. by a further period of six months from that date. A further endorsement in similar terms was signed by him on the 21st April, 2005. The term covered by the last endorsement...

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