Judge wants power to order psychiatric assessments

A local judge has said he should have the authority to order psychiatric assessments for prisoners with mental health conditions.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as 35-year-old Alan Paul Luukas appeared at the local magistrates court.

Luukas, of Foyle Park, is charged with arson endangering life on August 9.

It is alleged Luukas attempted to set fire to his flat in an attempt to kill himself. He had been an inpatient at Gransha Hospital prior to the alleged incident but signed himself out against medical advice.

During a bail application defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott told the court the 35-year-old’s mother was prepared to provide a bail address for her son so he could be assessed by mental health professionals.

Mr MacDermott said it was clear Luukas needs treatment but it would require the court to take a chance.

The judge said that while he did not want to keep Luukas “locked up in prison” he would “prefer he gets proper assessment and treatment”.

“I should be able to order that he be assessed in prison but I don’t have any obvious power to get this man assessed by a psychiatrist immediately”.

He added: “It is not satisfactory that we don’t have a good enough nexus between the criminal justice system and medical system. That is something that will have to be dealt with in another place where they make the laws”.

The bail application was adjourned and Luukas will appear in court again on Thursday.