A KILBRITTAIN man, accused of setting his family home on fire with his four children and himself inside, is to undergo an urgent psychiatric assessment after being charged with arson and remanded in custody by a judge.
John Kelly was charged with committing arson at the family home at Bruhenny, Churchtown, Mallow, on December 18th by causing criminal damage by fire, when he was brought before a special sitting of Mallow District Court on Monday week last.
Det Garda Patrick O’Connell gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution and told the court he had arrested Kelly at the Mercy University Hospital in Cork on December 18th and conveyed him to Mallow Garda Station where he charged him. Kelly made no reply to the charge.
Gardaí were opposing bail for Kelly on a number of grounds, including the seriousness of the charge and the fact that his wife and family were afraid of him, and the belief that he was likely to commit further offences if granted bail, he said.
Judge Brian Sheridan asked gardaí for an outline of the case. Det Garda O’Connnell said that the State would allege that Kelly – who had just returned on Saturday night from the Netherlands where he is working – had set his family home at Churchtown on fire.
He said that the State would allege Kelly set the fire in several locations in the house while his four children, aged 2, 6, 8 and 11, were inside, although he did later come down and open the front door and push the children from the burning building.
However, the State would also allege that Kelly refused to leave the building and it was his belief, said Det Garda O’Connell, that Kelly was attempting suicide by his actions and he eventually only left the building when a neighbour managed to persuade him to come out.
Kelly was taken to the Mercy University Hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation and he was also assessed there by the on-call psychiatrist who deemed that he was not suffering from a psychiatric condition, and was fit to be discharged into the care of arresting gardai, the court heard.
Kelly’s solicitor, Cathal Lombard, said that his client was anxious to get bail and was willing to give an undertaking to live with his parents in Kilbrittain in West Cork, attend the family GP in Bandon immediately, abide by a curfew, and sign on daily at Bandon Garda Station.
His client was also willing to stay away from his family home in Churchtown and not approach his family. He was also willing to give an undertaking to stay out of North Cork if granted bail by the court, said Mr Lombard.
Det Garda O’Connell said Kelly had put his family in considerable fear and their house was badly damaged in the fire. As a result, they were currently dependent on the goodwill of the local community who were putting them up while they waited for the Council to find alternative accommodation.
Det Garda O’Connell said that gardaí would be concerned if Kelly was granted bail as there would be no courts sitting over the Christmas holidays if it was necessary to bring him before a court again, for whatever reason over that period.
Judge Sheridan said it was ‘a hugely traumatic event’ for the family and he could appreciate the family’s anxiety as it was ‘understandably distressing’ and he was reluctant to grant Kelly bail without the benefit of a full and detailed medical and psychiatric assessment.
‘It’s alleged that he set fire to his own home and that he did get his children out of the burning building but to do that in the first place indicates a level of tragic disturbance. It doesn’t come much more dramatic than this. This man needs help as much as anything else,’ he said.
‘I would require psychiatric evidence that this man is under proper care and supervision before I could grant him bail – as much for his own sake,’ added Judge Sheridan, as he asked Insp Netta Browne to contact the governor of Cork Prison directly to ensure Kelly is psychiatrically assessed. He remanded Kelly in custody to Midleton District Court on Wednesday 21st December.
The court heard the psychiatric report would be available on January 3rd in Mallow Court, and Judge Sheridan remanded Kelly in custody until that date.