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High Court rules detention of woman with dementia whose son threatened to kill her is lawful

The court previously heard that the woman’s son had been secretly recorded threatening and verbally abusing her.

Image: Rollingnews

A 76-YEAR-old woman taken from her home by gardaí after she was found lying in a urine-soaked bed is being lawfully detained in a care facility, the High Court has ruled. 

Mr Justice Bernard Barton ruled that orders of the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, to put the woman in a secure facility for her own protection were without legal blemish or infirmity and displayed no element of invalidity.

Judge Barton dismissed an application by the woman’s son for an order to release his mother back into his care and that of her husband, his father.

The judge said the Court of Appeal had dealt with an application by the woman’s son against the orders of the President, and the appeal court had directed that the matter revert to the High Court for further consideration.

In a reserved decision, Judge Barton said Mr Justice Kelly had been satisfied the woman was of unsound mind and incapable of managing her property and made her a ward of court.

He said the Court of Appeal had required him to inquire into the lawfulness of the detention of a citizen who had been brought into wardship and placed in a secure community facility for her own protection.

“This court is concerned only with the lawfulness of the current detention or placement of the woman in a specific community home and whether or not that placement was lawful,” Judge Barton said.

“Her son, who wants her returned to her care and that of her husband, had been overheard to threaten his mother and abuse her in the most foul and repugnant language.”

Judge Barton said there had been a threat of violence by her son, who had threatened to kill her by putting a pillow over her head or his hand over her mouth.

He said he was quite satisfied on the legal authorities that had been opened to the court by the legal team for the Health Service Executive that there was no illegality in her detention.

He rejected the legal submissions on behalf of the woman’s son on the alleged lack of jurisdiction of the High Court to take her into wardship. 

“I am satisfied there is a long line of authority going back to pre-independence days confirming that the jurisdiction to detain someone in wardship is now vested in the High Court,” Judge Barton said.

In earlier hearings relating to the woman’s case, the High Court had heard that the son had previously been secretly recorded threatening and verbally abusing his mother who suffers from dementia

He had physically attempted to remove her from a hospital where she was being treated and had to be restrained from doing so.

The court had also been told that the son’s father, the woman’s husband, had been complicit in seeking to interfere with the woman’s care and treatment.

Judge Kelly had earlier made an order restraining both son and father from visiting the woman, who had since been changed to a new care facility.

At the time of making that order, Mr Justice Kelly said that medical evidence suggested the woman did not have a lot of time left in the world.

He added that it was a matter of great sadness that some members of her family appeared to be making her life more distressing that it already was.

Judge Barton, who returned from holiday in France to give his decision, said he was returning to France this weekend and adjourned the matter for mention in the new law term in October.

Comments have been closed for legal reasons.

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Ray Managh

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