Disabled patients sue Government

Guest Post

Three intellectually disabled men are suing the Government for upwards of $100,000 each, alleging ill treatment such as warehousing, neglect and discrimination in forensic health facilities.

The three “special patients” will have their case heard in the High Court at Wellington this week, with five defendants including the Attorney-General and two district health boards accused of various human rights abuses.

All the defendants deny the claims. The men are likely to get name suppression and will not appear in court.

They have provided video statements to police interviewers.

The case, in which the men are seeking declarations of ill treatment and compensation from the Government, follows Herald investigations into conditions at secure health and disability sites this year.

These included the case of Ashley Peacock, a 38-year-old autistic man held for five years in the isolated ward of a mental health unit, and who has experienced periods of prolonged seclusion, the medical term for solitary confinement.

His living conditions – he sleeps in a seclusion room with just a mattress and a urine bottle – were recently labelled “cruel, inhuman or degrading” by Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.

Interesting article which raises some questions.

Whilst I do not have a problem with this group of special patients attempting to sue the Government, it does highlight an inconsistency in the Law.

These patients have been detained under mental health legislation because they have been found unfit to plea to the charges they faced which means they nor any victims haven’t had their day in Court. This is because they, being ‘unfit’, are unable to instruct a lawyer as to their defence.

If this is the case, how is it that they can instruct a lawyer as to the potential prosecution of the DHBs involved.

Dean Newman has been begging the Attorney General to have Martin Lyall tried for the 2005 murder of his father, Kevin Newman.

Lyall was found unfit to plea and has yet to be bought to trial. If he is not tried y November this year he’ll never be able to be tried for the offence. Dean has been told that Mr Lyall is still unfit to plea so cannot plea.

It seems odd that the group featured in your story, who are also unfit to plea, have the capacity to instruct Counsel as to a prosecution.

Seems like a double standard to me.


– Graeme Moyle
Independent Victim Advocate
Mental Health

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