Mentally ill woman charged with murder unfit to attend preliminary enquiry

Derry courthouse

Derry courthouse at Bishop Street.

Two women accused of murdering a pensioner in Derry could not be returned for trial after it emerged that one defendant was unfit to attend due to mental illness.

Sharon Harland, 45, whose address was given as Bridge Street in the city and Rhona Gracey, 34, of Chobham Street in Belfast are jointly charged with murdering Daniel Guyler and robbing him of £400.

The 75-year-old victim was found with serious injuries in the Termon Street area of Derry on July 23, 2018. 

He later died in hospital on May 1, 2019, at which point the defendant’s were charged with murder.

A preliminary enquiry was scheduled for today, April 29, at Derry Magistrate’s Court.

Representing Harland, defence barrister Sean Doherty said the preliminary enquiry could not proceed as his client is currently at the Shannon Clinic.

That is a Medium Secure Unit, providing in-patient services for people with mental illness who require intensive psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation.

Mr Doherty said his client has been deemed ‘so unwell’ that the Shannon Clinic ‘wouldn’t accommodate a sight link with the court’.

A defence barrister representing Gracey said his client is also a ‘vulnerable lady’.

He was keen for her to be returned for trial in case her condition deteriorates to the point where she is unable to attend a preliminary enquiry in future.

Mr Doherty submitted that Harland has been unwell for six or seven months and there is no indication her mental health condition will improve.

He added that the law would have to be examined to determine how best to proceed.

The case was adjourned to a court sitting on May 13.

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