An independent inspectorate of psychiatric hospitals has existed for many years, under the provisions of the Mental Treatment Act 1945. The Inspector of Mental Hospitals, Dr. Dermot Walsh, who is retiring this year, has for many years inspected our psychiatric hospitals and issued detailed reports on matters arising from his inspections, including those pertaining to patients' human rights.
This year, a new inspector of mental health services, Dr. Teresa Carey, has taken office. Dr. Carey, who is employed by the Mental Health Commission, has a broad remit under the Mental Health Act 2001 to inspect all facilities where mental health services are provided. Under section 55 of the Mental Health Act 2001 the Minister may request the Mental Health Commission to cause the inspector to inquire into any matter in respect of which an inquiry is appropriate. Yesterday, I invoked my powers under the Act and formally requested the commission to inquire into the case referred to by the Deputy.
The Midland Health Board informs me that, to date, it has received no formal allegation of rape in this case. The board has indicated in writing to the Garda Síochána that it will co-operate fully with any Garda investigation and will respect the primary role of the gardaí in investigating allegations of a criminal nature. The board has also taken steps to investigate the matters which fall within its control and to establish an independent review group to review the care this former patient received while in its care. In particular, this group will review all pertinent matters concerning this former patient while in the care of mental health services in the Midland Health Board, investigate allegations made on behalf of the former patient by her father and review the response of the board's mental health services to previous complaints made by this patient's father on her behalf while she was in the care of those services. The group will make any recommendations deemed appropriate on the board's care management systems, processes and services and submit a report to the board's chief executive officer.
In line with Government policy, the transfer of patients with an intellectual disability from psychiatric hospitals is ongoing. The transfer programme aims to provide more appropriate care settings and enhanced levels of services for persons with an intellectual disability and those with autism accommodated in psychiatric hospitals. In his report for the year ended December 2002, the Inspector of Mental Hospitals acknowledges and details the considerable progress made in recent years in transferring such patients to appropriate facilities.
I remain committed to ensuring that all persons with intellectual disability receive appropriate care and treatment in suitable facilities. I have no evidence to support the assertion that sexual violence against persons with disabilities in residential institutions is prevalent and urge any agency with evidence to this effect to make such evidence available to the appropriate authorities.