NI judge warns of volume of criminal cases involving mental health issues

By Gary Adair

A Northern Ireland judge has warned that the criminal justice system is close to collapse as a result of the number of cases involving mental health issues.

Barney McElholm also commented that the "mental health of the nation was getting worse and worse" as a result of the lack of the appropriate services in Northern Ireland, and said that "nobody seemed to be doing anything about it." Mr McElholm was speaking at a bail application involving a Londonderry man, aged 39, who had assaulted his mother and threatened to kill her. The police officers who had arrested the man had recommended that he be moved to Gransha hospital for mental health issues, but they were overruled by police forensic medical officers. The man is currently in custody at Maghaberry Prison.

The judge said that the man has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and that social services and community mental health services should be involved in the case. It was during the hearing that he commented on the number of criminal court cases involving an element of mental health issues, and said that the system would collapse if more was not done to address the shortage of mental health services in Northern Ireland.

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