Gardaí considering criminal investigation into Camhs revelations

‘Non adversarial’ process for families affected by Kerry mental health services – Taoiseach

Gardaí are considering whether to begin a criminal investigation into revelations of significant harm to children who attended mental health services in Co Kerry.

A report was published earlier this week into allegations that young people who attended mental health services in south Kerry were prescribed inappropriate medication. It examined the treatment of more than 1,300 patients over a four-year period. It found there were 227 children managed by a junior doctor where the diagnosis or treatment exposed them to the risk of significant harm by way of sedation, emotional and cognitive blunting, growth disturbance and serious weight changes.

It found “clear evidence” of significant harm caused to 46 children.

Parents of potentially affected children have been urged to contact An Garda Síochána.


“Any contacts will be treated sensitively and with the strictest confidence. The Divisional Protective Services Unit in Kerry will engage with each of the families involved and the specific circumstances of their individual case. An assessment will be carried out by the specialist team within the DPSU to determine whether the complaint reaches the threshold to commence a criminal investigation,” the Garda said in a statement on Friday night.

Meanwhile, the HSE promised politicians last year it would “make efforts” to review clinical governance in children’s mental health services but stopped short of carrying out a full national review into over-medication.

Flagged concerns

Last April, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett flagged concerns with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly about an increase in the use of psychiatric drugs in children and asked for a review of the overuse of medication across all Camhs services.

Mr Donnelly directed the HSE to respond to Mr Boyd Barrett.

In a letter sent to the Dún Laoghaire TD, the HSE said it would "discuss the issue of use and overuse of medication with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) Faculty in the College of Psychiatry and make efforts to improve the clinical governance in these services" but it stopped short of carrying out a national review.

“The Government are acting as if the issue of the scandalous and damaging over-medication of children in Kerry was a surprise. This is utterly dishonest. I have been asking parliamentary questions and hearing reports about this kind of malpractice in many areas of the youth mental health services as far back as 2015,” Mr Boyd Barrett said.

“Over-medication of children was happening because of the lack of staffing and resources to deliver non-pharmaceutical therapies and services at primary care level and in Camhs teams. The answer to my question to Minister Donnelly in April says it all.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said there will be a full nationwide audit of compliance with Camhs guidelines of all teams.

Speaking in Cork on Friday, Mr Martin also vowed that families and young people impacted will not have to take their cases to court and instead will find their situations dealt with in a “non adversarial manner”.

“I have had preliminary discussions with the Attorney General and we will be looking at a non adversarial mechanism to deal with this and to address this issue.

“The specifics of that will have to be worked out. But that would be the objective of Government is to address these issues in a non adversarial way. That could involve a mediated approach or a mediation mechanism but we will look at a range of mechanisms to achieve that in the most efficient, effective and empathetic manner possible.”