G. C. v The Governor of Cork Prison

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr Justice Barr
Judgment Date20 August 2021
Neutral Citation[2021] IEHC 563
Docket Number[Record No. 2021/1092 SS]

[2021] IEHC 563

THE HIGH COURT

[Record No. 2021/1092 SS]

In the Matter of an Inquiry Pursuant to Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution of Ireland 1937 and in the Matter of the Habeus Corpus Act 1782

Between
G. C.
Applicant
and
The Governor of Cork Prison
Respondent

and

The Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of the Central Mental Hospital
Notice Parties

Unlawful detention – Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution – Inquiry – Applicant seeking an order releasing him from detention in Cork Prison – Whether the detention was unlawful

Facts: The applicant was before the District Court on theft and assault charges on 29th July, 2021. An application was made to the District Court judge to make a determination on his fitness to plead to the theft charges. The DPP had consented to the charges being dealt with summarily in the District Court. It was submitted that, while the District Court judge had not explicitly stated that he would accept jurisdiction in respect of the theft charges, it was clear from what he said in court that day that he would deal with the matter summarily. The District Court judge upon hearing that there were no beds available in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), stated that it would be futile for him to find the applicant unfit to plead and to remand him to the CMH. He adjourned the matter and remanded the applicant in custody to Cork Prison. The applicant contended that the refusal of the District Court judge to make a formal finding that the applicant was unfit to plead, was unlawful, because in declining to make that finding, he took into consideration irrelevant matters, namely the lack of beds in the CMH. It was submitted on behalf of the applicant that there was cogent uncontradicted evidence before the District Court judge that without receiving treatment in the CMH, the applicant’s condition was deteriorating. It was submitted that the only place where the applicant could obtain the appropriate treatment, because it could be given on an involuntary basis, was in the CMH. It was submitted that while the treatment being offered to the applicant in Cork Prison was entirely appropriate, the fact that he was refusing same due to a lack of insight into his condition, meant that his constitutional right to bodily integrity was being violated, because the District Court judge would not make a determination that he was unfit to plead and would not make the necessary referral to the CMH to enable the applicant to get the treatment that he urgently required. It was submitted that in those circumstances, his continued detention on remand in Cork Prison was unlawful. It was submitted that as the applicant’s detention was not in accordance with law, he was seeking an order releasing him from the said unlawful detention in Cork Prison.

Held by the High Court (Barr J) that the District Court judge did not have jurisdiction to make a determination on the issue of the applicant’s fitness to plead when the matter was before him in July and August 2021 due to the fact that he did not have jurisdiction to deal with the theft charges in a summary manner; that was due to the fact that the applicant was not in a position to make an election to enable the charges against him in relation to the theft matters to be dealt with summarily. In relation to the submission on behalf of the applicant that it was not necessary for him to make a positive election in order to confer jurisdiction on the District Court, Barr J was not satisfied that the wording of s. 53 (1) (b) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001, relieved the applicant of the necessity to indicate that he elected to have the matter proceed before the District Court. Barr J found that that the respondent, the Governor of Cork Prison, and the DPP were not prevented from raising the jurisdiction issue on this application. Barr J held that while the applicant’s detention in Cork Prison was not ideal from a treatment perspective, it was the best treatment and the most optimal placement for him, outside of an admission to the CMH. In those circumstances Barr J was not satisfied that there was a violation of the applicant’s right to bodily integrity, such as would render his detention in Cork Prison unlawful.

Barr J refused to make a declaration that the applicant’s detention in Cork Prison was unlawful.

Declaration refused.

JUDGMENT of Mr Justice Barr delivered on the 20th day of August 2021

Introduction.
1

This is an inquiry pursuant to Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution into the lawfulness of the applicant's detention on remand in Cork Prison.

2

In essence, the applicant's case is as follows: he has a long history of mental illness in the form of paranoid schizophrenia and polysubstance drug abuse. When he was before the District Court on theft and assault charges on 29th July, 2021, an application was made to the District Court judge to make a determination on his fitness to plead to the theft charges. The DPP had consented to the charges being dealt with summarily in the District Court. It was submitted that, while the District Court judge had not explicitly stated that he would accept jurisdiction in respect of the theft charges, it was clear from what he said in court that day, that he would deal with the matter summarily.

3

However, the District Court judge upon hearing that there were no beds available in the Central Mental Hospital (hereinafter referred to as “CMH”), apparently stated that it would be futile for him to find the applicant unfit to plead and to remand him to the CMH. Accordingly, he adjourned the matter and remanded the applicant in custody to Cork Prison.

4

The applicant contends that the refusal of the District Court judge to make a formal finding that the applicant was unfit to plead, was unlawful, because in declining to make that finding, he took into consideration irrelevant matters, namely the lack of beds in the CMH.

5

It was submitted on behalf of the applicant that there was cogent uncontradicted evidence before the District Court judge that without receiving treatment in the CMH, the applicant's condition was deteriorating. The evidence before the District Court as contained in the reports furnished by Dr. Morgan, a psychiatrist attached to Cork Prison, clearly established that the longer the acute schizophrenic episode continued without appropriate treatment, the more difficult it would be to treat it and it could give rise to long-term adverse consequences. It was submitted that the only place where the applicant could obtain the appropriate treatment, because it could be given on an involuntary basis, was in the CMH.

6

It was submitted that while the treatment being offered to the applicant in Cork Prison was entirely appropriate, the fact that he was refusing same due to a lack of insight into his condition, meant that his constitutional right to bodily integrity was being violated, because the District Court judge would not make a determination that he was unfit to plead and would not make the necessary referral to the CMH to enable the applicant to get the treatment that he urgently requires. It was submitted that in these circumstances, his continued detention on remand in Cork Prison was unlawful.

7

It was submitted that as the applicant's detention was not in accordance with law, he was seeking an order releasing him from the said unlawful detention in Cork Prison. However, he was not seeking to be released into the community, but the court could place a stay on the order to enable the authorities to take such steps as they may deem fit to ensure that the applicant's custody would become regular and lawful and where the immediate release of the applicant would be detrimental to his welfare.

8

In response, the respondent pointed out that there was no challenge to the committal warrant per se. The applicant's primary complaint was in relation to the failure of the District Court judge to make a determination that he was unfit to plead to the criminal charges against him, and consequent upon that, to make an order remanding him in custody to the CMH. It was submitted that the District Court judge did not have jurisdiction to make a determination in relation to the fitness of the applicant to plead to the theft charges, as those charges related to indictable offences, which could only be tried summarily if three pre-conditions were satisfied: the DPP consented to the matter being dealt with summarily; the District Court judge accepted jurisdiction in the matter and the accused person, having been informed of his right to trial by jury, did not object to the matter being tried summarily.

9

It was submitted that even if the District Court judge was presumed from his conduct to have been prepared to accept jurisdiction in respect of the theft charges, the third element, being that the applicant did not object to the matter being dealt with summarily, was missing, as it was clear that the applicant lacked capacity to make the necessary election. That being the case, it was submitted that the District Court judge did not have jurisdiction to determine the applicant's fitness to plead. He could only do that if the matter was going to be dealt with summarily and that was not possible because the applicant could not make the necessary election.

10

It was submitted that in these circumstances, the District Court judge did not have jurisdiction to make any determination in respect of the applicant's fitness to plead to the theft charges; nor did he have jurisdiction to remand the applicant to the CMH.

11

It was submitted that as the applicant was before the district court on foot of the theft charges, which were indictable offences, and in respect of the assault charge, which it was agreed could never have been dealt with summarily, the District Court judge was entitled to remand the applicant in custody to Cork Prison.

12...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT