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Derry judge urges law change to allow courts to detain people who self-harm

By George Jackson

A judge has criticised the lack of legislation in Northern Ireland to allow courts to make detention orders for people who self-harm.

Barney McElholm was speaking after a police officer told how a 37-year-old Londonderry woman arrested yesterday had been rescued from the River Foyle three times this month.

Leona Devlin from Spencer Road in the Waterside area had also twice been removed by police officers from the Craigavon Bridge, Londonderry Magistrates Court heard.

Devlin has admitted possessing and attempting to possess quantities of Xanax tablets which were intercepted by the police after they had been posted to her from Birmingham.

The officer told the court that the authorities in Altnagelvin Hospital and Gransha Hospital, as well as the police and the courts, had all tried to help the defendant in the past.

Quoting the defendant's consultant psychiatrist, the officer said there was a high likelihood that she would die by misadventure if she continued to overdose.

The officer said he was opposing bail and asking for a remand in custody to protect her from herself.

Mr McElholm said: "In England and Wales and possibly in Scotland if diagnosed with this sort of personality disorder she could be detained and receive treatment. It is disgraceful the way things are in this jurisdiction.

"In order to protect her from herself I have no option but to remand her in custody but in any proper area I should have the option to make an order to put her somewhere where she can receive treatment.

"While people in other parts of the UK have the benefit of that option, here we do not. They argue about customs and tariffs but more important things such as this should be argued about.

"If there was the proper legislation in this country the court could detain her and make her stay in a mental health institution or in an addiction unit for as long as it takes.

"This court or the Crown Court or the High Court should have the power to detain her in circumstances like this for her own good. I cannot do that."

Devlin was remanded in custody until August 23.

Belfast Telegraph

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