In this case the High Court had to consider if it had inherent jurisdiction to direct the involuntary detention of a patient in circumstances where the involuntary detention provisions in the Mental Health Act, 2001 did not apply.
The patient concerned (“JOB”) was 26 years of age and had been diagnosed as displaying mild-to-moderate learning disabilities associated with very challenging behaviour early in his life. When JOB was 18 years of age he was placed with the Mental Health Services in the UK. Proceedings were brought by the HSE seeking a declaration that JOB could be detained at the Central Mental Hospital where a continuous regime of clinical, medical and nursing treatment in an environment of therapeutic security could be provided. It is noteworthy that JOB’s family was very anxious that he return to Ireland and be treated in the Central Mental Hospital.
The application was novel as JOB was not suffering from a mental illness or mental disorder as required by section 3 of the Mental Health Act 2001 and therefore, the provisions of that Act did not apply. Thus, the main question to be determined was whether, in a situation where an adult lacks capacity and where there was a legislative lacuna so that the adult’s best interests could not be served without the intervention by the Court, the High Court had jurisdiction to intervene. Mr Justice Birmingham answered in the affirmative.
In confirming the High Court’s jurisdiction to make the Order sought, Mr. Justice Birmingham traced the origin of Court’s jurisdiction to the 1997 Supreme Court case of DG -v- EHB which confirmed that it may be lawful in certain circumstances to order the detention of a child with a view to protecting his/her constitutional rights. In granting the Order, Mr Justice Birmingham emphasised that it was helpful that both the HSE and JOB’s family were in agreement as to what was in the best interests of JOB and this made the Court’s task a less daunting one. It was also ordered that JOB’s detention at the Central Mental Hospital be reviewed every 2 months.