Belfast Telegraph

Judge blames Thatcher's legacy for lack of adequate mental health care

By Eamon MacDermott

A judge launched a broadside against former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a sitting of Londonderry Magistrate's Court yesterday.

District Judge Barney McElholm blasted provision for people with mental health difficulties as "a disgrace", adding that it was "a legacy of Thatcher and an ideological drive to dismantle mental health services".

The comments came as the judge dealt with a case involving Naomi Graham (34), of Ballyoan House in Derry, who admitted two charges of assaulting police on June 17 this year.

The court heard police were called to an address where the owner asked for Graham to be removed from the premises.

Police did so but she became aggressive and hit one officer on the shin and bit another.

Defence barrister Eoghain Devlin said there was "a total lack of appropriate care" in the community for people like Graham. He said there should be an option for dealing with someone like Graham through the health service, but it seemed the court was "the last stop for people with appalling mental health difficulties".

The barrister said the question had to be asked what could be done to stop people harming themselves and the community.

He added that prison simply did not seem to be the appropriate answer.

Judge McElholm said it was a legacy of Thatcher.

He said there was "absolutely no provision for mental health facilities and it was left to the criminal justice system, which was a very poor reflection on our society".

He added: "The criminal justice system is simply not equipped to deal with people like this. There is a hopeless deficiency in legislation and it seems all politicians do is jump up and down and complain we don't sentence people to long enough and when they are told that will entail another prison being built they say we are sentencing too many".

The judge imposed a sentence of 12 months probation.

Belfast Telegraph

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