State (O) v O'Brien

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date28 July 1971
Date28 July 1971
Docket Number[1968. No. 306 SS.]

Supreme Court

[1968. No. 306 SS.]
The State (O.) v. O'Brien
THE STATE (at the Prosecution of O.)
and
EVELEEN O'BRIEN

District Court - Sitting - Mental hospital - Criminal ease - Indictable offence - Accused unfit to plead - Certificate of District Justice - Criminal law - Offence - Assault occasioning actual bodily harm - Offences against the Person Act, 1861 (24 & 25 Vict. c. 100)), s. 47 - District Court Rules, 1948 (S.R. & O. No. 431 of 1947), r. 24 - Mental Treatment Act, 1945 (No. 19 of1945), s. 207, sub-s. 1.

Habeas Corpus.

The facts have been summarised in the head-note and they appear in the judgment of the Chief Justice, post. On the 24th December, 1964, the Minister for Health made the following order:—

"Whereas—(hereinafter called 'the patient') being a person detained in Ballinasloe District Mental Hospital, was on 18th September, 1964, charged with an indictable offence before a Justice of the District Court sitting at Ballinasloe District Mental Hospital;

And whereas the said Justice being of opinion that the evidence given constituted prima facie evidence that the patient had committed the said offence and that he would, if placed on trial, be unfit to plead, did by Order dated 16th September, 1964, certify that the patient is suitable for transfer to the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum;

And whereas the Minister for Health required the Inspector of Mental Hospitals to visit the patient and make a report on his medical condition;

Now therefore the Minister for Health in exercise of the powers vested in him by paragraph (c) of subsection (2) of section 207 of the Mental Treatment Act, 1945, after consideration of the said report of the Inspector of Mental Hospitals by this his Order directs and authorises the transfer of the patient from Ballinasloe District Mental Hospital to the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum.

Given under the Official Seal of the Minister for Health this 24th day of December, 1964.

Seán MacEntee,

Minister for Health."

The prosecutor was transferred to the Central Mental Hospital on the 14th January, 1965, pursuant to the order of the Minister for Health. On the 28th November, 1968, the High Court (Henchy J.) made an order, on the application of the prosecutor, pursuant to Article 40, s. 4, sub-s. 2, of the Constitution directing the respondent Governor of the Central Mental hospital, Dundrum, to produce the body of the prosecutor before the High Court and to certify in writing the grounds of his detention. In her return the respondent Governor certified that she was detaining the prosecutor pursuant to the order of the Minister for Health. The return of the respondent was considered by the High Court (O'Keeffe P., McLoughlin and Teevan JJ.) on the 14th January, 1969, when counsel for the prosecutor applied for an order of certiorari to quash the orders of the District Justice and of the Minister for Health. On the 15th January, 1969, the High Court made an order refusing to make an order of certiorari and declaring that the prosecutor was being detained in accordance with the law. The prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court.

Section 207, sub-s. 1, of the Mental Treatment Act, 1945, enables a District Justice to sit in a district mental hospital and to certify that a person who is detained in that hospital is suitable for transfer to the Central Mental Hospital, provided that such person is charged with an indictable offence and there is evidence which, in the opinion of the Justice, constitutes prima facie evidence that such person has committed the offence and that he would be unfit to plead if placed on trial. While he was being detained in a district mental hospital, the prosecutor was charged (as defendant) with having assaulted a doctor, thereby occasioning him actual bodily harm. The statement of the complaint made against the prosecutor concluded with the phrase "contrary to s. 47 Offences against the Person Act, 1861, as amended by Criminal Justice Act, 1951." Having heard evidence of the alleged assault and of the prosecutor's mental condition, the District Justice adjudged that the prosecutor"had committed" the offence charged and that he would be unfit to plead if placed on trial. The District Justice certified that the prosecutor was suitable for transfer to the Central Mental Hospital, but no order of remand was made. Subsequently the prosecutor was so transferred pursuant to an order of the Minister for Health. The prosecutor brought habeas corpus proceedings in the High Court and claimed that his detention was not in accordance with the law, but the High Court refused to order his release. On appeal by the prosecutor it was

Held by the Supreme Court ( Ó Dálaigh ó dálaigh C.J., Walsh and FitzGerald JJ.), in disallowing the appeal, 1, that the offence of "assault occasioning actual bodily harm" was an indictable offence and that it had been stated correctly in the complaint as being contrary to s. 47 of the Act of 1861, and that the reference to the Act of 1951 could be disregarded as...

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