Man accused of murdering garda says mental health declined during the pandemic

Dr Greg Kelly agreed with Mr Silver's defence lawyers that psychiatric services were restricted because of Covid and that one of the most important aspects of psychiatric care is having face to face care.
Man accused of murdering garda says mental health declined during the pandemic

Fiona Magennis

Stephen Silver, who is accused of murdering a garda with his own gun, told a doctor that his mental health began to decline while Covid restrictions were in place and that Covid had "destroyed everything", the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Dr Greg Kelly agreed with Mr Silver's defence lawyers that psychiatric services were restricted because of Covid and that one of the most important aspects of psychiatric care is having face to face care.

“It’s very important,” the doctor said. “Having phone consultations is no replacement for face to face.”

The trial jury also heard on Friday that in the hours after his arrest, the accused refused an assessment from a psychiatrist, who told the court that Mr Silver showed “no evidence of an active mental illness” when he assessed him.

“I thought there was no evidence of an active mental illness. That didn’t mean he doesn’t have one,” Dr William Monteiro told the jury. He added his main concern was whether Mr Silver was fit to be interviewed.

Mr Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo has pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Garda Colm Horkan (49) knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Siochana acting in accordance with his duty at Castlerea, Co Roscommon on June 17th, 2020. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Sergeant Maura McGarry told James Dwyer SC, for the prosecution, she was on duty the day after Gda Horkan was killed and was with Mr Silver when he requested to speak to his mother on the phone. The garda said she telephoned Mr Silver’s mother and was present in the room while he spoke to her.

While on the phone, the accused said he and James Coyne had been walking up the main street when “a suspicious looking Dublin car came up” and a “suspicious looking fella got out” and came up to them.

Fingerprints

Mr Silver then said: “He had a gun on him, and he reached for his gun and I grabbed it and shot him. I didn’t mean to. Turns out he is a detective. F**k me.”

The court also heard that Mr Silver declined to give his fingerprints while in custody, citing Covid-19 as the reason.

“He said ‘that’s what caused all this with the guard last night. Social distancing,’” Sgt McGarry said.

The Sergeant told the jury that the accused spat at her through the hatch in the cell door and subsequently pulled his underwear down and spread his buttocks in front of some of her colleagues when they attempted to bring him for a shower.

Earlier, the jury heard evidence from Consultant Psychiatrist Dr William Monteiro who said Mr Silver refused a psychiatric assessment on the night he was arrested and told him “you are f**king joking, why should I tell you” when the doctor enquired why he was there."

Dr Monteiro told prosecution counsel Michael Delaney SC the accused showed “no evidence of an active mental illness” when he assessed him and displayed “a large measure of control”.

The psychiatrist said he interacted with the accused twice over a short period during which time the accused “refused to have very much to do with me”.

“The guard explained who I was and why I wanted to see him. He said ‘well I don’t know this man I don’t want to talk to him’. He was clearly switching me off so to speak and focusing on the guard,” the doctor told Mr Delaney.

Clouded consciousness

Dr Monteiro said he observed the defendant and his interactions with the guard for some time and noted that the accused was “clear” and “lucid” and “he could engage in normal conversation”.

“He interacted with the garda in a reciprocal way. The guard would say something and he would respond. It was obvious he was lucid, he did not have clouded consciousness,” said the doctor.

Asked by Mr Delaney to explain what “clouded consciousness” entails, the doctor said this is a situation where someone is somewhat unaware of the situation or themselves and can appear “vague perplexed, uncertain. The person is out of touch, if you like with reality. That is clouded consciousness.”

The psychiatrist said Mr Silver showed no evidence of “thought disorder” and his eye contact was normal.

“I thought there was no evidence of an active mental illness. That didn’t mean he doesn’t have one,” Dr Monteiro said.

“I thought he had a large measure of control of himself. I felt, on balance, this is someone who could be interviewed.

"He could give an account of himself. He was quite able to make up his mind about what he wanted to do and not want to do but obviously I only saw him for a short space of time.”

In his second interaction with the accused, Mr Silver asked the doctor his name and what he wanted from him. “I said I’m just interested in what brought you into here.”

Under cross-examination, defence counsel Dominic McGinn put it to the consultant psychiatrist that his interactions with Mr Silver were very limited, and the accused had refused a psychiatric assessment.

“You use the term I spoke very briefly to him and he “appears to understand” that’s the language you are using. Because in fairness you didn’t see him for very long?” Mr McGinn said.

Dr Monteiro said his main concern was if he had enough data to conclude Mr Silver was fit to be interviewed.

Control of behaviour

“I felt I was seeing someone who had good control of their behaviour, good control of their intentions, full ability to interact with me and the guard,” he said.

Earlier, the court heard Mr Silver told a local doctor his mental health began to decline while Covid restrictions were in place and revealed he had been living in a shed prior to the fatal shooting of Garda Horkan.

Dr Greg Kelly, a Castlerea based GP, told the jury that Mr Silver told him he was bipolar but had given up his medication.

He said the day after the shooting the accused appeared “elated” and “did not appear to have taken on the gravity of the situation”.

Dr Kelly told prosecution counsel James Dwyer SC Mr Silver said he was living in a shed in Foxford and told him Covid had “upset his whole life”.

Mr Silver also said he had “shot a garda in self-defence" and “his mood and demeanour seemed wholly inappropriate for the situation he was in,” the doctor added.

The doctor agreed with Mr Dwyer that the accused appeared “agitated” when he first spoke to him through a hatch door in the early hours of June 18th, 2020 but said Mr Silver was also “lucid” and “coherent”.

“He said to me ‘I was just going for pizza with James Coyne’ and made some reference to going to jail and something about a gun,” Dr Kelly said.

The doctor said Mr Silver had told him: “Covid ruined everything, or destroyed everything in his own words."

He agreed with Mr McGinn that psychiatric services were restricted because of Covid and that one of the most important aspects of psychiatric care is having face to face care.

“It’s very important,” the doctor said. “Having phone consultations is no replacement for face to face.”

The trial continues on Monday before Ms Justice Tara Burns and the jury of seven men and five women.

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