Judge: mental health provision ‘appalling’

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A judge has said that mental health provision in Northern Ireland is ‘appalling’.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comments as he sentenced a woman with ‘severe’ mental health difficulties.

Julie-Anne Fenton, whose address was given on court papers as Gransha Hospital, pleaded guilty to common assault on November 17.

Londonderry Magistrates’ Court heard the 22-year-old was receiving treatment from a staff member in Gransha when she struck out with a clenched fist. The staff member blocked this and did not sustain any injuries as a result.

A defence solicitor told the court his client has ‘severe’ mental health problems and needs access to a ‘medium care facility.’ However, he added there are none in Northern Ireland. The judge was told once Fenton is released from prison she will have to present herself as homeless to get emergency accommodation in the community.

The District Judge said: “This is where the whole system is wrong. There should some sort of ‘half way house’ for when there isn’t enough time to arrange proper accommodation for someone coming out of prison’. Hesaid the current system is ‘morally wrong and beyond stupid when it comes to society protecting itself’.

Turning to mental health care provision, the judge said it was ‘appalling in this country’.

He said: “The whole thing just doesn’t work.”

Jailing Fenton for two months he said this would give time to arrange proper accommodation.