All charges against a severely learning-disabled man have been dropped after a judge criticised the decision of a prosecution lawyer to seek a report ascertaining if he would be “amenable to treatment”.
The former accused, who is aged in his 30s but cannot be identified at this time, was charged with using disorderly behaviour and assaulting a number of persons in the care facility where he lives, as well as resisting arrest.
Defence lawyers argued the man is unfit for court proceedings and while they suggested the case could proceed as a Finding of Fact hearing, District Judge Bernie Kelly went a step further, venting her anger at the stance taken by the prosecution.
A Finding of Fact hearing can take place in some instances in which a defendant is mentally unfit to understand or participate in the standard trial process. Instead of a finding or guilty or not guilty, the verdict would be one of the offence being committed or not.
In the event offending is held to have been committed, the court has a number of options which seek to support the individual by providing relevant treatment and supervision to ensure the public are protected from any potential risk. The court can also order an absolute discharge.
At Craigavon Magistrates Court the case in question was previously adjourned to allow the prosecution to consider an expert report obtained by the defence, which found the defendant to have significant and long-established learning disabilities which manifest as global developmental delay.
His IQ has been assessed as being the equivalent of a five-year-old child.
On return to court, a prosecuting lawyer advised the senior officer in the case was seeking a further adjournment to, “obtain an addendum report from an expert to ascertain if the defendant’s condition would be amenable to treatment”.
She also suggested the defence, “Need to get everything in order at their end.”
Judge Kelly replied, “They have nothing to get in order. They have everything they need. There’s nothing more to get in order. It’s the prosecution who are asking for the addendum report.”
Nonetheless the prosecution requested a 12-week adjournment to which the judge said, “I’m not inclined to do that. I’d like to know when a report is expected in order for me to properly timetable, because if it comes back saying (the defendant) is not amenable to treatment, I strongly suspect the prosecution will look for something else.
“Perhaps that will be a referral to some medical school in America to see if they have come up with a medical cure for delayed development. It wouldn’t surprise me.”
She continued: “Quite frankly, this is a nonsense. An intelligent, educated person is asking a doctor if such a condition can be reversed or made better by medical treatment, when we all know it can’t.”
While agreeing to a short adjournment Judge Kelly pointed out: “I can’t believe I’m doing this. If the report comes back saying what I believe it will, I suspect the prosecution will look for something else. I suspect there won’t be a report and there will be an application for another adjournment.”
However on return, the prosecution advised the charges have been withdrawn – a move Judge Kelly described as “very wise”.