Belfast Telegraph

Judge slams mental health system over habitual hoax caller

By George Jackson

A judge has criticised the "appalling" provision of mental health services in Northern Ireland.

Barney McElholm made the comments at Londonderry Magistrates Court during the case of a 38-year-old woman who a PSNI officer said had contacted the police emergency line 182 times.

Philomena Curran, who lives in sheltered accommodation at Glenabbey Crescent in Derry, admitted wasting police time by making false reports to them and to the Garda earlier this month.

The police officer told the court that in January the defendant received a suspended jail sentence for wasting police time and she was warned then not to contact the emergency services unless in genuine need.

The police witness said that since then, the defendant had made multiple calls to the police before she was arrested on Monday.

"She is a vulnerable adult and because of that we call with her to check up on her when she makes these type of emergency calls," the officer said.

"It is not the cost that is the issue, it is what we should be attending to when we are dealing with her calls and calling with her to check up on her.

"She has been warned numerous times in the past about contacting the PSNI and now she has contacted the gardai, who are obliged to contact us."

District Judge Mr McElholm said it was problematic for the defendant to be released on bail. He noted that she had been granted bail before on condition that she should not contact the emergency services unless in a genuine emergency, and had breached that condition on multiple occasions.

"If she is as vulnerable as I am told, and if she had difficulties, how come she does not have a mental health social worker?" Mr McElholm asked.

"The provision of mental health services in this country is quite appalling.

"I do agree this lady needs help, but in the meantime we have to take control of this situation."

The defendant was remanded in custody until April 12.

Belfast Telegraph

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