The Health Service Executive has apologised to the parents of a 20-year-old man who died after he was attacked by a stranger with a severe psychiatric condition who burst into his house.
The HSE Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Services acknowledged in the High Court “shortcomings” in the care of the assailant of Sligo man Jimmy Loughlin.
Mr Loughlin (20) died in his rented home at Connolly Street, Sligo, on February 24th, 2018, when the stranger, Richard McLaughlin, attacked him with a crowbar.
In July 2019, at the Central Criminal Court, Mr McLaughlin (35), with an address at The Laurels, Woodtown Lodge, Sligo, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of Mr Loughlin.
He was committed to the Central Mental Hospital.
The Central Criminal Court heard that Mr McLaughlin broke down the door of Mr Loughlin's home at 1.18pm and beat him to death with a crowbar while suffering from delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia.
At the High Court on Tuesday, a representative of the clinical and management team at the HSE Sligo/Leitrim Mental Health Services “sincerely and unreservedly” apologised to Mr Loughlin’s parents for the “breaches of duty in the care provided”, which it acknowledged and accepts led to “untold upset, distress and harm” to them and their family.
The service wished to “acknowledge the shortcomings in the care of Jimmy’s assailant, Richard McLaughlin, as were highlighted at the inquest into Jimmy’s death, together with the verdict of unlawful killing rendered by the jury”.
Mr Loughlin’s parents, Michael and Paula Loughlin, of Ballintogher, sued the HSE over the care provided prior to the unprovoked fatal attack on their only son while he was getting ready for work on February 24th, 2018.
Their counsel, Eoin McCullough SC, told the High Court the Loughlin's case against the HSE has been settled. The settlement is without an admission of liability.
Mr Justice Paul Coffey expressed his “deepest sympathy” to Mr and Ms Loughlin.
'Hang its head in shame'
Outside the Four Courts, Mr and Ms Loughlin said in a statement that the HSE should today “hang its head in shame”.
“On the day our son Jimmy’s life was taken over five years ago all our lives ended,” they said.
Jimmy was a “son to whom so much was promised and yet everything was taken”, they said, adding: “Unfortunately, no apology will now bring our son back to his loving family.”
Mr Loughlin’s inquest in May 2022 heard a consultant forensic psychiatrist attached to the Central Mental Hospital found Mr McLaughlin was schizophrenic and had started drinking and smoking cannabis at age 11 or 12.
Mr McLaughlin admitted to having used ecstasy and cocaine but told the psychiatrist he had given them up some years ago.
The inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, finding Mr Loughlin died due to traumatic head injuries from the assault.
In their High Court action seeking damages for personal injuries suffered, the Loughlins alleged the assailant was a patient of the defendants and was known to them as a person with a history of mental illness and violent tendencies.
Mr McLaughlin has been known to and/or in the HSE’s care for an extended period of time, they claimed. He was first referred to the adult mental health service in 2008 and has been re-referred for paranoid ideation, paranoid schizophrenia and drug-induced psychosis on several occasions since, they alleged.
The HSE, the Loughlins alleged, has “at all times” been aware that Mr McLaughlin has a sustained history of episodes of violent behaviour.
It failed, omitted and/or neglected to take adequate steps to avoid the “real and present risk” to people living in proximity to Mr McLaughlin, they alleged.
The assailant consistently missed scheduled appointments and ceased taking medication for his mental illness, they claimed. The HSE failed to maintain him in its care notwithstanding their knowledge or notice that he was acting in a suspicious and paranoid manner, they further alleged.
The claims were denied.