Belfast Telegraph

Psychiatric facility patient accused of sexual assault on female staff member

By Staff Reporter

A man in his 30s accused of sexual assault is a long-term patient in a specialist psychiatric facility and the alleged victim is a female member of staff, it has emerged.

The offence is alleged to have occurred on May 18 last year, and the defendant's bail terms include him continuing to reside at the unit.

The facility is understood to have been the scene of the offence and where the alleged victim continues to work.

The name of the accused, the facility and the relevant Health and Social Care Trust are being withheld to protect the alleged victim and other patients.

Dungannon Crown Court has been advised the accused was examined by an expert on behalf of the Public Prosecution Service, who concurred with defence-obtained reports that returned a finding of unfit for trial.

His Honour Judge Stephen Fowler granted an adjournment to let the prosecution consider its position and obtain instructions on how to proceed.

The accused was remanded on continuing bail with a £500 surety and ordered to remain resident in the facility. Bail conditions state the relevant authorities will regulate the rota so the alleged injured party does not work with the defendant.

The Health and Social Care Trust in question declined to comment on the case, referring instead to the Department of Health's zero-tolerance policy.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) confirmed it was aware of the matter. "Under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986, RQIA inspects a range of mental health and learning disability services, including hospital wards," it said.

"Our inspections assess if care is safe, effective and compassionate and if the service is well-led. During our inspections, we would expect to find clearly defined care plans for the management of each patient. Where we identify any concerns, we expect the service to provide detail of its actions to address these concerns, which would be followed up at RQIA's next unannounced inspection of the facility."

In relation the case, a number of options are available, including a fact-finding hearing, in which the accused is not technically on trial but a court sits to determine if the incident occurred.

If there is a conclusive finding that a defendant did carry out an offence, it is not a conviction and so there is no sentence as such. Instead, orders are usually imposed that are not punishments, but rather are designed to protect the public from further harm.

There are four main options in these circumstances - a Hospital Order, a Guardianship Order or a Supervision and Treatment Order. The fourth option is to discharge the case entirely.

Conditions can be built in to include residence and compliance with relevant statutory and support agencies.

Further measures are available, including Sexual Offences Prevention Orders and notification requirements, all of which are designed to mitigate and manage risks to the public.

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