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Judge Patrick Durcan

Burglary court case reveals “huge flaw” in the system

A DISTRICT Court judge said there is a “huge flaw” in the system, whereby a man, who was on a methadone detox programme in prison, was released before completing it, without any link-in services being provided in the community.

The issue arose in the case of Gerard Delaney, with addresses at Inis Ealga Shannon and formerly of Rineanna View, who appeared before the court on a breach of bail, arising from a burglary.

The court was told that the defendant had been on a methadone detox programme while on remand in Limerick Prison. He did not finish the programme in prison and was released with no follow-up care or referral.

Arising from the incident, Judge Patrick Durcan has requested the governor of Limerick Prison, or someone with the relevant authority, come to court next Wednesday to explain how this can happen.

Judge Durcan heard the defendant “was not finished the programme when he left prison. It was not possible for him to arrange this with another doctor. The prison authorities were aware his programme was not complete and he was released with no follow-up.”

A representative for the Probation Service told Judge Durcan she “came across this before”.

Judge Durcan asked a member of the prison service to confirm what happens when a person is released from prison and if any arrangements are made for prisoners once they leave prison.

The court was told the prisoners walk out the door of Limerick Prison in the morning and, unless they are referred from the Probation Services within the prison to the probation services outside of the prison, that’s as far as it goes.

Judge Durcan sought clarification as to whether it would be correct to say that “at 10am, the door opens and they walk out on the street. No arrangements are made to link in with other services?”

The Probation Service clarified that this is not always the case and sometimes arrangements are made, but it was accepted, in this case, that had not happened.

The Probation Service confirmed the programme the defendant underwent was a 21-day detox programme and the defendant was released without a link-up detox service.

“People have to go to the bottom of the Sláinte list, a waiting list effectively, as the prescription does not transfer to the community. The difficulty here is that only certain doctors can prescribe methadone. There are two or three in Ennis who can prescribe methadone and, in this case, no link-up was provided. If people are on detox, it is not transferable,” a representative from the probation service said.

Inspector Tom Kennedy, prosecuting, confirmed that prisoners when released “are left to their own devices” and he described it as “a major flaw in the system”. Judge Durcan added, “It is a huge flaw. This man was thrown on the waves of the world.”

Solicitor for the defendant, John Casey said this was not, in his view, a problem of the probation services, but rather a situation where his client had “fallen through the cracks”.

Judge Durcan said such a comment “would suggest that there was timber on either side. This is a hole he has fallen through.”

He said he would like someone to come to court from Limerick prison to explain this. Again addressing the probation service, he asked them to confirm if there was a halfway house option for someone in this situation.
The representative answered, “Yes, if he completed a treatment programme but not if he is still in treatment.”

Judge Durcan was critical of the situation, whereby someone is “put on a programme, an expensive programme, and he just walks out the door”. He said, “I’d like the prison authorities to come to court. Even where a person is on remand and is on a programme, there should be a link up afterwards.”

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