Minister for Justice and Equality v MT

JudgeMs. Justice Donnelly
Judgment Date11 November 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] IEHC 698
Docket Number[2015 No. 64 EXT]
CourtHigh Court
Date11 November 2015

[2015] IEHC 698


Donnelly J.

[2015 No. 64 EXT]


Extradition – European Arrest Warrant Act (EAW), 2003 – Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, 2006 – Test for incapacity

Facts: Following the consent of the respondent for his surrender to the requesting state pursuant to the execution of the European Arrest Warrant Act (EAW) and the subsequent refusal, the applicant now sought the surrender of the respondent under s. 16 of the EAW Act 2003. The counsels of the respondent argued that the respondent had lacked the requisite capacity to understand the nature of acts done by him.

Ms. Justice Donnelly adjourned the present application in order to permit the respondent to undergo treatment. The Court asked the issuing judicial authority of the requesting State about the legal representative of the respondent and whether he was sentenced for imprisonment. The Court observed that the expert testimony clearly established that the respondent had suffered from delusions and that he entered into agreement for his surrender under those delusions. The Court opined that in general, persons suffering from mental illness possessed the ability to instruct the solicitors or take certain decisions. The Court, however, noted that the respondent's understanding was impaired as he had a delusional belief concerning a U.K. prison officer.

JUDGMENT of Ms. Justice Donnelly delivered the 11th day of November, 2015.

This judgment concerns the capacity of the respondent to give instructions to his solicitor and counsel in these proceedings under the European Arrest Warrant Act, 2003, as amended (‘the Act of 2003’). The background is that the respondent was arrested on 9th June, 2015 pursuant to a European Arrest Warrant (‘EAW’) issued by a United Kingdom (‘U.K.’) issuing judicial authority. The EAW indicates that the respondent had pleaded guilty to an offence of wounding contrary to s. 20 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861 for which he was sentenced to three years imprisonment. He was released on licence but failed to comply with the conditions of that licence and in due course the EAW was issued for the purpose of requiring him to serve the remaining 493 days of his sentence.


The respondent has been remanded in custody since his arrest on foot of the warrant. At a very early stage in the surrender proceedings, it was indicated to the High Court that he wished to consent to his surrender to the issuing state. On 23rd June, 2015, an application under s. 15 of the Act of 2003 for an Order for surrender on consent was commenced. This application reached the stage where the respondent gave evidence that he had been advised and understood the consequences of his return. When the respondent was asked to sign a document recording his surrender, however, he refused to do so. The matter was then adjourned for the purpose of fixing a s. 16 hearing in this matter.


Prior to the hearing of the application for surrender under s. 16 of the Act of 2003, concerns emerged in relation to his mental health. Expert psychiatric reports were obtained by the respondent's legal representatives from Dr. Conor O'Neill, who is a consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum and visiting psychiatrist to Cloverhill Prison where the respondent was held on remand.

The Evidence of Dr. O'Neill
His reports

In his first report of 16th July, 2015, Dr. O'Neill stated ‘I formed the opinion that [the respondent] did not meet criteria for fitness to be tried at the time of his most recent assessment on 3rd July, 2015, due to the gravity of his acute psychotic symptoms. His capacity to instruct counsel is likely to be impaired by his ongoing paranoid delusional beliefs. This is likely to change following admission to hospital and appropriate treatment’. On being shown that report, the Court expressed concerns about the issue of fitness to be tried and also the jurisdiction of the court to deal with this matter should the respondent be found to be unfit to give instructions.


The case was adjourned from time to time over the summer months while a further report was obtained in relation to the respondent. At an early stage in the detention of the respondent, a request had been made by Dr. O'Neill to have him transferred to the Central Mental Hospital. Dr. O'Neill indicated in evidence the unfortunate reality was that, although in his view the respondent was in need of treatment and was near the top of the list for admission, he lost priority due to other even more needy prisoners. Due to the lack of psychiatric hospital places within the prison service, he was only transferred to the Central Mental Hospital on 21st October, 2015.


In his second report dated 2nd October, 2015, Dr. O'Neill states as part of his conclusions as follows:

‘14.1 Regarding Diagnosis and Current Mental State

[The respondent] has an established diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. This a serious mental illness and meets criteria for a Mental Disorder as defined in the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, 2006.

His condition is complicated by substance misuse and poor compliance with treatment. He is currently actively psychotic and his condition at the time of the most recent assessment on 29th September, 2015, was such as to meet criteria for a Mental Disorder as defined in the Mental Health Act, 2001.

14.2 Regarding Fitness to be Tried

I formed the opinion that [the respondent] did not meet criteria for fitness to be tried at the time of most recent assessment on 29th September, 2015. His capacity to instruct counsel was impaired by his ongoing paranoid delusional beliefs. He remained guarded, thought disordered and deluded. He reported a history of apparently delusional beliefs regarding prison staff in the United Kingdom which may be influencing his decision making capacity. This is likely to change following admission to hospital and appropriate treatment.’


Those reports are verified on affidavit. The minister did not seek to have the respondent assessed by a second psychiatrist as is her prerogative; no criticism of that decision is in any way intended or implied. The minister sought to test the evidence of Dr. O'Neill by way of cross examination. That hearing took place before me on 16th October, 2015.

The oral evidence of Dr. Conor O'Neill

Cross examination elicited that the respondent had given his consent for the preparation of the report in circumstances where he understood the limits of confidentiality. Dr. O'Neill explained the screening process for persons newly remanded to prison. The respondent was seen as a person who required psychiatric assessment for a number of reasons. It appears that he was known to the psychiatric services within the prison system. Indeed much of his longitudinal history was taken from his previous presentations.


The respondent was able to provide the doctor with various information about his background and his current family circumstances. In some of the interviews, it was very difficult to obtain information from him as he was extremely guarded, suspicious, and irritable.


Dr. O'Neill said that the respondent had stated on a number of occasions that he does not feel himself to be suffering from an illness. Dr. O'Neill's view, and that of his treating team, was that the respondent was suffering from a psychotic illness and was in need of hospitalisation at that time. When Dr. O'Neill was asked to confirm that the respondent had been in a position to recall the incident giving rise to the EAW, Dr. O'Neill replied that ‘this is highly likely to reflect a delusional belief that he has over time described delusional beliefs relating to prison officers both in Ireland and other jurisdictions, including England, he has described delusional beliefs that he is being persecuted by people from his own home town, by people in Dáil Éireann and a wide range of other individuals. He is certainly able to describe these delusional beliefs.’


Dr. O'Neill confirmed that the respondent had told him on 3rd July, 2015 that he wished to fight the extradition proceedings and avoid having to return to the United Kingdom. He said that the respondent had given various accounts of where he would like to stay if he was not extradited to the United Kingdom. On 29th September, 2015, Dr. O'Neill said that he was aware that an application was being made for him to be extradited to the U.K. but the respondent was reluctant to go into that in any detail. Dr. O'Neill was asked by counsel for the minister with respect to delusions concerning extradition proceedings, lawyers or the courts. Dr. O'Neill stated that the respondent had described, at different times in the recent past, his belief that the officer in the U.K. that he assaulted was a person who had travelled to or been from his hometown and arranged for his uncle to have an accident in a road traffic accident. Indeed, Dr. O'Neill had seen the respondent more recently on 7th October, 2015 and he elaborated on that issue. He told him that the man was in part responsible for the extradition order being applied to him and that he wanted to cause him harm whether in Ireland or the United Kingdom.


Dr. O'Neill said in relation to the capacity issue ‘my concern was that his capacity to instruct in relation to the extradition matter and his reason for opposing it is coloured by a delusional belief system that incorporates persons working in the U.K. prison system, people working in the government system.’ His reasoning around matters relating to the extradition matters is significantly impacted upon by this complicated delusional belief system ‘that a range of people are trying to cause him harm in a range of different places’.


Dr. O'Neill was then asked by counsel, considering that the grounds upon...

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