M.C. v Clinical Director - Central Mental Hospital

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMR. JUSTICE MICHAEL PEART
Judgment Date18 January 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] IECA 4
Docket NumberNeutral Citation Number: [2019] IECA 4
Date18 January 2019

[2019] IECA 4

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Peart J.

Peart J.

Whelan J.

McGovern J.

Neutral Citation Number: [2019] IECA 4

Appeal Number: 2016 472

BETWEEN:
M.C.
APPLICANT/APPELLANT
- AND -
CLINICAL DIRECTOR - CENTRAL MENTAL HOSPITAL
RESPONDENT
- AND -
MENTAL HEALTH (CRIMINAL LAW) REVIEW BOARD
NOTICE PARTY

Mootness – Damages – Breach of statutory duty – Appellant seeking to appeal against the finding of mootness made by the trial judge – Whether the proceedings were moot

Facts: The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against an order of the High Court (Eagar J) dated the 25th July 2016 refusing certain reliefs by way of judicial review for reasons explained in a written judgment delivered on the 20th June 2016. The need for the various declarations which the appellant sought in these proceedings no longer existed in the light of subsequent events. However, she submitted that the proceedings were not moot as she maintained a claim for damages for breach of her constitutional rights resulting from the breach of statutory duty by the respondent, the Clinical Director of the Central Mental Hospital, alleged by her.

Held by Peart J that the claim advanced for damages must be seen in the light of the very short period in respect of which the appellant had claimed that, by reason of the alleged breach of statutory duty by the Clinical Director, she was deprived of the right to make her own decision as to where to reside, and also in the light of the un-contradicted fact that she was by January 2014 able to reside in the family home with her husband and children for six nights a week, with the remaining night at her mother’s house, and that by the 28th May 2014 she was residing on a full time basis at her family home. It seemed to Peart J that even if there was a breach of statutory duty (which was denied strenuously, and which in any event was found by the trial judge not to be the case), the claim that her constitutional or Convention rights were breached was so minimal, tenuous and insubstantial as to not warrant the conclusion that there was a breach of those rights by the Clinical Director. Peart J held that, at best, if at all, in the unlikely event of some success, any award of damages would be purely nominal. Peart J held that it was certainly not in the nature of a claim that would warrant a continuation of these proceedings where the primary claims were rendered entirely moot by subsequent events; this was especially so where, as in this case, the underlying claim for damages for breach of constitutional rights could not itself be determined without also resolving the otherwise moot Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 s. 13A issue. Peart J held that it would not serve the interests of the orderly administration of justice if the Court were to find itself obliged to determine an important legal issue (namely the s. 13A question) which was otherwise moot simply because the appellant had also elected to pursue what in substance amounted to a purely theoretical case for damages.

Peart J held that he would dismiss the appeal against the finding of mootness made by the trial judge.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT OF MR. JUSTICE MICHAEL PEART DELIVERED ON THE 18TH DAY OF JANUARY 2019
1

This is an appeal against an order of the High Court (Eagar J.) dated the 25th July 2016 refusing certain reliefs by way of judicial review for reasons explained in a written judgment delivered on the 20th June 2016 ( [2016] IEHC 341).

2

The need for the various declarations which the appellant sought in these proceedings no longer exists in the light of subsequent events. However, she submits that the proceedings are not moot as she maintains a claim for damages for breach of her constitutional rights resulting from the breach of statutory duty by the respondent alleged by her.

3

There is a tragic background to the issues that arise. M.C is a married woman, now aged 44 years. On the 20th January 2006 she was found guilty but insane of killing her infant son and of attempting to drown her three-year old daughter on the 29th July 2002 whereupon she was committed to the Central Mental Hospital (‘CMH’) with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

4

Upon the enactment of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, 2006 (‘the Act’), M.C. was reclassified as a person found not guilty by reason of insanity. Thereafter, while detained at the CMH she underwent 15 periodic reviews by the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board (‘the Board’) pursuant to s. 13 of the Act.

5

While at the CMH, M.C. was under the care of Dr Helen O'Neill, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist. M.C. had responded very well to the treatment she received and was able to avail of periods of temporary release from the CMH. According to Dr O'Neill's affidavit sworn on the 12th March 2015, by mid-2012 M.C. was able to spend two overnights per week in a named supervised and supported hostel in the community where she had previously resided, another two nights in her mother's house, and three nights in her own home. This régime was put in place following a case conference held on the 21st May 2012. At that point Dr O'Neill considered that M.C. was engaging fully with therapeutic services available locally, that she was making positive and sustained progress, that her mental state was stable, and that her schizophrenia remained in remission.

6

As stated in the same affidavit, Dr O'Neill was of the opinion that the applicant no longer required continued care, treatment or rehabilitation in conditions of therapeutic security. M.C. had expressed a wish to participate more fully in the care of her children. She had remained stable for some years, and had participated fully in her treatment and care plan such that Dr O'Neill felt able to recommend that M.C. should not be the subject of a renewed detention order under the 2006 Act, or an absolute discharge under s. 13, but rather should be conditionally discharged under s. 13A of the Act. She recommended certain specific conditions that should be contained in a conditional discharge order so that M.C. would continue to be supported in her ongoing recovery and her gradual transition into community living.

7

On the 26th July 2012 the Board made a conditional discharge order pursuant to s. 13A(1) of the Act which directed that M.C. be conditionally discharged on or before the 29th August 2012, subject to the various conditions set forth in the order. The conditions relevant to the present appeal are those relating to M.C.'s place of residence. Those conditions were stated as follows:

‘1.1 [M.C.] must comply with the conditions laid down by the National Forensic Mental Health Service Treating Team in relation to her residing at any location and any change of location.

1.2 Place of residence will be determined by the legally responsible Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Helen O'Neill or, in her absence, another Consultant Psychiatrist nominated by the Clinical Director of the National Forensic Mental Health Service, in consultation with the local Consultant Psychiatrist and Community Mental Health Team. At all times the place of residence will be discussed with [M.C.] and any decision in relation to the place of residence will be based on clinical reasons and, insofar as practicable, by agreement with [M.C.].’

8

Thereafter it was agreed that M.C. would reside in her family home with her husband and her children. Nevertheless, Dr O'Neill had concerns that there continued to be a risk of domestic violence and that this had the capacity to destabilise the great progress that M.C. had made, and for that reason it was agreed also as a condition of her discharge that M.C. would inform certain identified persons in the event that certain events occurred. M.C. complied with these reporting conditions.

9

Dr O'Neill states in her affidavit that there was an acute incident in June 2013 which caused her to direct M.C. to change her residence from her family home to that of her mother. In addition, Dr O'Neill instructed M.C. that she was not to spend time alone with her husband. This decision was based on Dr O'Neill's clinical concern about the potential for an acute psychotic relapse associated with the psychosocial stress of marital disharmony. The said incident had involved verbal abuse by her husband, and he had also uttered verbal threats to one of their sons. There had been an earlier incident in January 2013 when M.C. had suffered an acute relapse of her psychotic illness. She was admitted to hospital, and discharged to her home in April 2013.

10

In the autumn of 2013, M.C. applied to the Board for either an absolute discharge from the CMH, or to have the conditions attached to her conditional discharge varied in such a way as to enable her alone to determine where she should reside, without reference to Dr O'Neill or other professionals. A multi-disciplinary meeting was convened on the 9th October 2013 to consider M.C.'s request for an absolute discharge/variation of her residence conditions, at which the risks and potential outcomes associated with M.C. residing in her family home were identified and were considered to be high. Those risks and possible outcomes were (i) suicide by M.C., (ii) serious or fatal injury to M.C., and (iii) serious or fatal injury to her husband.

11

A meeting of the Board was convened to consider this application on the 14th November 2013. The respondent herein, Prof. Kennedy, attended this meeting along with other professionals. Dr O'Neill advised the Board that she was of the opinion that conditions 1.1 and 1.2 attached to the conditional discharge order already in place were necessary and should not be removed. Prof. Kennedy in his affidavit has stated that the proposed variation of the residence conditions ‘was a variation of clinical and practical significance’, and he expressed his agreement with the clinical opinion given by Dr O'Neill in relation to the...

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1 cases
  • M.C. v The Clinical Director of the Central Mental Hospital
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 4 June 2020
    ...agreed, dismissed the appeal in a written judgment delivered on 18 January 2019, M. C. v. Clinical Director - Central Mental Hospital [2019] IECA 4, and considered that the proceedings were moot, although he came to that conclusion on different grounds. Peart J. considered that the claim f......

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