Child sexual abuse survivor’s challenge on mental health care

A survivor of child sexual abuse has lost his High Court challenge to alleged deficiencies in the scrutiny of Northern Ireland’s community-based mental health services.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 4:38 pm

The man claimed failures in the regulation and independent inspection of home treatment since the pandemic has led to him being repeatedly hospitalised and at risk of suicide.

Judicial review proceedings were brought against the Department of Health in a bid to secure a declaration that the current oversight arrangements breach his human rights.

But a judge identified no violation of legal obligations to protect life or safeguard against inhuman and degrading treatment.

Ruling that the complaints fell short of the minimum level of severity, Mr Justice Colton said: “There is in place a system of supervision and regulation of mental health services in the community.”

Granted anonymity, and referred to as JR148, the man at the centre of the case suffered serious psychiatric injuries due to the abuse a number of adults inflicted on him as a child, the court was told.

He has been diagnosed with personality and post-traumatic stress disorders, the court heard.

The court was also told he had attempted suicide on a number of occasions.

He has complained repeatedly, the court heard, about how his mental health illnesses are treated in the community.

Those alleged deficiencies in out-patient treatment have resulted in repeated 
admissions to facilities 
as an in-patient, it was contended.

Since 2017 he has been hospitalised in the Bluestone Unit at Craigavon Area Hospital more than 50 times.

Mr Justice Colton was told the current system for inspecting and regulating community-based services is inadequate.

It was contended that unlike the situation in England, there is no legal duty on Northern Ireland’s independent watchdog body, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Body, to investigate.

Resisting the challenge, lawyers for the Department countered that the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act 2009 includes a requirement to monitor and hold to account the regional board and health trusts.

Requests can also be made to the RQIA at any time to review, investigate or inspect mental health services in the community provided by the trusts.

Formal complaints mechanisms are available for anyone dissatisfied, as well as the opportunity to seek support from the Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

Dismissing the legal challenge, Mr Justice Colton said JR148’s evidence did 
not establish a real and immediate risk or degrading treatment.

He confirmed: “The applicant has not established an arguable case that the existing arrangements are unlawful or that the court has a role to play in intervening by way of declaration or mandatory
order.”

Editor’s message:

Thank you for reading this article. We’re more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a copy of the paper. You can also support trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription of the News Letter.