An elderly woman lived in abject squalor for almost two years despite the fact that €164,000 was lodged in court for her, the High Court has heard.

The woman, who was living without heat, light or adequate nutrition was removed from her home to hospital recently by order of the High Court.

Her situation came to light in the course of proceedings to assess whether or not she should be made a ward of court.

At a hearing early last month, Mr Justice Peter Kelly strongly criticised solicitors who acted for her in a personal injury claim which settled in July 2017 for €164,000 over their failure to progress a wardship petition.

Despite their undertaking to do so and correspondence being sent by the wards of court office since August 2017, a petition had not been brought, he said.

The law firm which initially handled the case has closed and on the direction of the Law Society, the woman's file was transferred to another firm in March 2018. Both firms were criticised by the judge over delays in progressing the wardship petition.

The judge had last month discharged the solicitors from further dealing with it and instead appointed a general solicitor for wards of court, to progress the petition and another solicitor was appointed as guardian.

When the matter returned before the judge on Wednesday, the woman was in court in a wheelchair.

She told the judge she was being well looked after in hospital and was prepared to stay short-term in a psychiatric unit, as proposed by the HSE. She also said she hoped to get her house done up. 

She said she had been "starving" and living on crackers and water and now weighed less than seven stone.

Her home was described as a health hazard for reasons including its general state of disrepair and hygiene. A raw chicken had been in the hallway for some time.

The woman has no family and her cat was located in very poor condition. A vet is trying to keep it alive because of the woman's affection for it.

The judge told her he had arranged for her removal to hospital after seeing photos of "abject squalor" in her home.

He said the tragedy was that, all this time, there was a sum of €164,000 for her in court and he would be taking further steps in due course concerning the solicitors, he said.

Noting the woman had said she was prepared to go to an in-patient psychiatric unit for assessment and to stay there in the short-term, he said he would make those orders and take into account her views on any long-term proposals.

Noting the woman's wish to go to Lourdes, he said he would also see if that could be facilitated.

The court was told the woman requires further assessment before a decision is made on what is in her best interests.

Her guardian, solicitor Catherine Ghent, said the woman had instructed her that she objected to being made a ward of court and considered she did not require court protection.

She had also said she was willing to attend for psychiatric assessment and was very confident she would be "cleared" in any such assessment, Ms Ghent said.

The judge said he had received reports from two consultant geriatricians and from a court appointed medical visitor. All of the reports considered that the woman, for reasons including a long standing history of psychotic illness, lacks the necessary capacity to make decisions concerning her person and welfare.

One report stated she was starving for months because she believed someone had stopped her pension payments and a solicitor had kept money from her.

The court appointed medical visitor had reported the woman exhibited a confidence often based on a psychotic interpretation of reality as she sees it but which is not based on fact, the judge noted.

Arising from the woman's objection to being made a ward of court, the judge adjourned a decision on whether to take her into wardship pending further reports and further hearing.