District Judge Barney McElholm told Derry Magistrate’s Court this week that he is being expected to “make it up as he goes along” when it came to dealing with defendants with mental health issues.
“There is a complete dearth of mental health facilities in this country,” he said, when referring to the case of Caolan Lang, a man with mental health issues who had been caught with a knife in the A&E department of Altnagelvin Hospital.
The court was told that there was no bail support package for Lang, (19) who was arrested at the hospital on August 4.
Lang, whose address was given in court as Jefferson Court, was spoken to by police when staff from the hospital rang for assistance fearing for their safety when they discovered the knife.
Outlining the facts, a representative from the Public Prosecution Service said Lang had taken the knife out to show police but refused to drop it.
He then appeared to move forward towards police, then placed the knife in the front pocket of his hoodie.
He was eventually restrained and the knife removed.
The defendant was taken by police to hospital later that day where he was seen to become aggressive and attempted to leave. At that point he had to be handcuffed and a limb restraint used.
During police interview Lang said he hadn’t been taking medication prescribed for his mental health, in a long time, and was feeling low.
He said he had taken the knife and begun to cut his arms. He also told police he had taken nine or ten sleeping tablets.
Lang told police he couldn’t recall being at the hospital but acknowledged the knife was his and apologised for his actions.
Defence solicitor Seamus Quigley said that his client had multiple cuts on his arm.
“This was a cry for help,” he said. “His family want to get him back to his GP. This episode in the cold light of day horrifies him.”
Mr McElhom said: “This is where the whole system doesn’t work. If things were set up properly I would have access to social workers and support accommodation where I could send Caolan for a night until the bail support package is in place.
“This is not satisfactory.”
Lang was released on his own bail of £250 to reside in Jefferson Court.