Questions remain on a troubled young life
HE was described as a very troubled young man and this was clear to be seen each ti me he appeared at sittings of Sligo Distric t Court. And, the criminal justice system just wasn’t the place for Philip Lyons (29) to be dealt with and in fairness to all concerned with his welfare this was clearly recognised. His solicitor Gerard McGovern, Sergeant Gerry Moylan and most particularly Judge Kevin Kilrane showed Philip great compassion and strove to find a solution to his problems. It wasn’t easy.
The local mental health services were lashed by the Judge on several occasions for lack of foresight and action. It seemed like an arduous process to get Philip the care he so badly needed. He spent many weeks and months on remand in prison when he should have been in hospital. Mr McGovern said on several occasions the system was letting Philip down.
Judge Kilrane was very critical of the way the local mental health service was dealing with Philip’s care in the initial phase.
Latterly, Philip spent two years in the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin and his remands back to the District Court were less frequent. When he did appear he didn’t seem to be making progress.
There was even an arranged supervised meeting with his younger brother at Philip’s request held in a room in the courthouse but which didn’t work out well, the court heard. Philip had been an involuntary patient at the HSE’s mental health services at St Columba’s, Ballytivnan in recent months.
He was due before the District Court last Thursday. His father, Philip senior was in attendance like he always was every time his son was due to appear. This time however, Mr Lyons told Judge Kilrane that his son had passed away suddenly the previous Thursday, May 3rd. Philip had still been in the care of the HSE. Mr Lyons told Judge Kilrane that it took the local services a long time to realise his son had mental health issues and he thanked the Judge for calling them to account. Mr Lyons thanked the Judge for the compassion shown to his son when he appeared before him.
Indeed, on many occasions the Judge had called Philip forward to the witness box to ask him how he was feeling and if he wanted to say anything to him.
And, it was this compassion which can sometimes be lost in the cold and formal setting of a courtroom that Mr Lyons wanted to thank the Judge for last Thursday.
Mr McGovern and Sgt Moylan were remembered to for their efforts in dealing with a young man whom Judge Kilrane said had difficulties which were exacerbated by addiction issues.
The Judge recalled how the local menatl health services were brought to court with much pushing and shoving and recalled a doctor finally being present at a special night sitting. It was quite clear said the Judge that Philip needed to be admitted to hospital immediately and yet it took a long time for the local services to be convinced of this.
They had been proved absolutely and utterly wrong in their judgement, said the Judge. Eventually, Philip spent two years in the Central Mental Hospital and at best his condition had been stabilised and was discharged after much treatment to being an involuntary patient at St Columba’s.
Judge Kilrane described Philip as a lovely young man but a very troubled one.
“I could see that he was mentally tortured and was tormented when he was here in court,” he said. He added: “I think the situation was permanent, his tortured mind and that’s a terrible thing to say.”
Judge Kilrane extended sympathy to Mr Lyons on his sad loss. His wife, Maria had passed away two years ago. The Judge told Mr Lyons that he could only wish that he was able to move forward with his life and wished him well.
“You have done everything a parent could do and more. The difficulties were there and just would not go away,” said Judge Kilrane. He thanked Sgt Moylan for his efforts saying he had a difficult balancing act between minding Philip and the public. Mr McGovern too had acted above and beyond the call of duty.
“We all did the best we could but unfortunately it could only be taken so far. It’s a very sad story,” said the Judge.
And, indeed it is. The charges before the court were then formally struck out. There will be lots of questions to be asked about the interaction of Philip Lyons with the mental health services in Sligo.
Will they ever be answered?