A judge has accused a Stormont department of misspending public funds.
Barney McElholm said the Department of Health, in an effort to justify forthcoming budgets, approved end of financial year expenditure to purchase items later sold at public auction, as he hit out at the lack of funding for services such as mental health.
The judge made the comment as Leona Devlin appeared in court for sentencing.
Devlin (37), from Spencer Road in the Waterside area of Londonderry, created a stand-off with members of the PSNI’s armed response unit in Altnagelvin Hospital’s accident and emergency department last weekend when she grabbed a pair of scissors from a doctor. It ended when a police officer tasered her in the hospital.
Devlin had been brought to the hospital by police officers after a member of the public expressed their concern about the defendant’s behaviour on the Craigavon Bridge.
The defendant, who has multiple convictions for disorderly behaviour in the hospital, admitted committing similar offences last December and last Sunday.
Her barrister Stephen Chapman said the defendant has been diagnosed as having a particular type of personality disorder, symptoms of which she displayed when brought to hospital.
“There is no appropriate medical intervention available in Northern Ireland for people such as the defendant,” he said.
“The Northern Ireland Personality Disorder Strategy was published by the then Health Minister here in 2010, but few if any of its recommendations have been implemented by successive Health Ministers.”
He asked Mr McElholm to defer sentencing in the case to enable the defendant to attend an appointment with a consultant psychiatrist next Tuesday.
The District Judge said Stormont had done nothing in terms of the provision of appropriate specialist mental health centres in Northern Ireland.
“It was up to the devolved government to do that yet successive Health Ministers have refused to do anything about it,” he said.
He added: “The Department of Health does not spend enough money on what they should be spending it on. Instead as they approach the end of March they go out and buy ride-on lawnmowers in order to justify and ensure their budget for the next year, ride-on lawn mowers which are often sold soon afterwards at public auction.”
Mr McElholm deferred sentencing until September 12.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The Department of Health is both a bit surprised and disappointed at these reported comments.
“It has repeatedly acknowledged the pressures on resources right across the health and social care system, including the provision of mental health services.”