Saeed Dezfouli

Mental Tribunal threatens indefinite imprisonment

After an unprecedented six weeks in consideration, the Mental Health Review Tribunal made a 58 page decision on March 20, 2014 on the future of Saeed Dezfouli, the man who was subject of the ABC Background Briefing program “The Man Without a Name”.

‘The Tribunal rubber-stamped the hospital’s authority to act as it wants, despite the Supreme Court saying it had power over the hospital. The forced injections will continue in the highest security cells. It said if Saeed doesn’t "make a genuine effort to engage with the treating team’s current treatment plan which includes injected medication…he may simply continue to remain in his current circumstances indefinitely”. We are considering another appeal’ said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

Saeed said today: “I’m not surprised by the result. For twelve years they have been trying to reduce me and those around me to dazed, medicated semi-humans. That is their culture. They must respect our human right to learn and recover”. He has begun a weekly blog called “VOICE INSIDE MADNESS" reporting on what is happening around him.

Saeed has been held for over twelve years in the highest security hospital, never having intended any harm. If he was convicted as a criminal he would have served four years. The Tribunal referred to arguments that he had paid the penalty as “a complete misconception and fallacious”, “irrelevant and unhelpful …. and likely to unfairly raise false hopes and expectations”. It ignored the NSW Law Reform Commission Report that this was unfair, and its recommendation [dead link] on “extending the requirement for the court to set a limiting term for all forensic patients”.  (Report 138 [dead link] Exec Summary 1.27 page X1X Recommendation 7.2) This issue featured in its media release” said Mr Collins.

The Tribunal permitted Saeed Dezfouli to publish his own name, and for comments to be published by his primary carer on the Justice Action website, media releases, emails and talks. But in a separate 12 page judgment the Tribunal said that the judgments themselves couldn’t be published, nor could the names of the psychiatrists or Tribunal members. No statements could be made on social media. It made threats against full public exposure like: “Mr Collins would need to be very cautious” and “he would be well advised to seek legal advice on in any case where there is the least doubt” make it clear that Saeed’s health interests aren’t the ones being protected from view’ said Mr Collins.

'On forced medication, the Tribunal dismissed in one sentence the international research showing that cognitive behaviour therapy and social support are more effective, refusing to engage on the issue. The treating team had said there is "no evidence that suggests that consumer support in the absence of antipsychotic medication is effective for managing a chronic psychotic illness” and “there is in theory a risk of harm if he is in the community if he acted upon his delusions. Medication will lessen preoccupation with delusions, even if they are ongoing and would make him more manageable in the community”. That is the medicalisation of social problems’ said Mr Collins.

Douglas Holmes, TheMHS Emeritus Standing and spokesperson for consumers said: “I am disappointed with the Tribunal's response as it seems to contradict their support for the newly released Mental Health Consumer Information Sheet and doesn’t understand the status of Justice Action”

Update on Saeed: 12 March, 2014

Saeed’s hearing before the Tribunal is fast approaching! On Thursday 20 March the Tribunal will conduct an urgent review of Saeed’s case, that has been brought forward from the usual six-monthly timetable in light of the extraordinary circumstances that Saeed is facing. After a period of high tension between Saeed and the hospital, appeal to the NSW Supreme Court, an injunction, disrupted negotiation, forced medication and a water and hunger strike, Saeed’s case is finally coming to a head.

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Saeed's Strike Ends

"Forty eight hours after Saeed Dezfouli  was forcibly injected by eight staff from the Forensic Hospital, he called off his hunger and thirst protest strike” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins. 

"On Saturday afternoon the hospital told him that it was reducing the dosage of paliperidone. After consultation with his support group, Saeed decided to keep his strength rather than endangering his life further,” Mr Collins explained.

"This was tactical decision by Saeed, pending a Mental Health Review Tribunal Review five weeks away, foreshadowed by the Supreme Court. An application was made yesterday to bring the hearing forward because of the Forensic Hospital’s decision to ignore alternative treatment using social support, and compel submission for its own convenience. An agreement Saeed had made with Mental Health Consumer Workers would have avoided the continued confrontation, but wasn’t even listened to” said Mr Collins.

"Saeed's David and Goliath struggle with the mental health system continues to highlight its brutality. Forcibly medicating intelligent and gentle Saeed when he is causing no problem, is contrary to the principles of “Recovery”, and against the national agreement that seclusion and restraint is anti therapeutic. It is easy bullying vulnerable people who are instead entitled to service, but have no power or support to compel it” said Mr Collins. 

"Saeed has served twelve years of brutal imprisonment without an end, for an act that would have merited four years in the criminal system. It is time to let this proud man go, giving him support to resettle in the community” said Mr Collins.

Saeed's Treatment Proposal

Great progress continues for Saeed’s battle!

In preparation of the pending review of Saeed’s case, he has constructed a proposed treatment plan for himself to be decided on by the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT). In this plan, Saeed accepts responsibility for his behaviour in 2002 and realises that it caused the death of a person despite no intention to do so. Saeed will also continue to engage with the Justice Health and accepts the taking of Paliperidone orally daily.

On the other hand, he wishes to be transferred to a Forensic Mental Health Unit of lower security within the next 2 months and upon being transferred, have meetings with a Consumer Worker and psychiatric support for a 6-month period. Finally, his devised treatment plan states that in the September Review, if the MHRT receives reports that there is no significant risk of Saeed causing serious harm to himself or others, then he will be released with Neami National or a similar facility.

CRISIS: Saeed Forced Medication Begins

On Thursday 20th February 2014, mental patient Saeed Dezfouli was held face down by seven nurses and a doctor, had his trousers removed and was injected with 150mg of Paliperidone as a new trial medicine by the Forensic Hospital, after twelve years of other forced medication.

He has collapsed in a cell and is now refusing all food, water and medicine in response. He said he: ‘felt crushed, detached from life, hopeless without a future and his life was ended’. He is expected to be removed to Prince of Wales Hospital within days, to be strapped to a bed and have drips inserted to keep him alive. This is a shameless example of the coercive culture of mental health in an $17 billion annual Health budget. He was causing no one any problem.

Earlier in the day psychiatrist Dr Rafe Pulley consulted with the Director of the Hospital Adrian Keller, and declared that injections were needed. They rejected an alternative plan with Health Department Mental Health Consumer Workers, agreed to by Saeed, without hearing it. A Supreme Court injunction preventing the forced treatment was lifted on January 17thLindsay J. supported an early review by the Mental Health Review Tribunal to direct the hospital to act for Saeed’s benefit. The hospital has now usurped that forthcoming review.

Over the previous twelve years despite being a gentle intelligent person he has been forcibly medicated and has suffered diabetes, high blood pressure, a heart condition, weight gain, loss of concentration and loss of sexual arousal as side effects. He did an act for which he would have received a four years sentence but is being tortured without end, to force him into submission.

Justice Action is applying for an urgent intervention by the Tribunal and the Minister of Mental Health Kevin Humphries.

Attachment: Transcript of Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing held on 12 September 2013.

Report Meeting 20/2/14 Saeed at Forensic Hospital


Rafe Pulley psychiatrist, Liz (Saeed’s primary nurse) Saeed Dezfouli, Douglas Holmes (consumer worker) and Brett Collins primary carer

The initiative for this meeting was an email sent  29/1/14 by Brett to Adrian Keller, the Clinical Director of the Forensic Hospital and Long Bay Hospitals to consider the use of consumer workers to assist Saeed in his future directions. (see under)

Douglas and Brett entered the Forensic Hospital and were escorted into Deewhy ward at 9.30am by Liz. The meeting began at 9.43am.

Rafe Pulley came in and we agreed for the four to talk first before asking Saeed to talk separately with Douglas and Brett, and then a meeting between all five people, and then finally a discussion with Douglas Brett and Saeed.

Pulley explained that Saeed had previously been in Eloura Ward which is the lower security section of the Forensic Hospital, and that he had been injected with clopixol (Zuclopenthixol) under the control of psychiatrist Mastroianni until Saeed had complained about the side effects and it was decided to change it to injected (depot) paliperidone in 2012. The injection was ordered, took a while to be delivered and meantime – in a two week delay, Saeed said he didn’t want it. Because he refused it, and the ward didn’t have any seclusion cell to force him to accept the medication, they moved him back to Deewhy where he has been since.

Pulley said they are now wishing to use the same medication he is taking orally, - paliperidone at 75mg/month as a depot injection to ensure his compliance before he could be transferred to a less secure hospital.

Pulley said that Saeed had ongoing delusions and he was mentally ill. He hadn’t talked with him since 2012 although he did talk with nurses and other staff. Whenever they talked about the fire Saeed used irrational responses to justify it, and didn’t see it as irrational. He continued to hold delusions shown in his letters where he approaches US Senators Democrats as if he had information “too hot to handle” and discussion about global warming, misinterpreting information that he was given.

Douglas said he could assist in communication, encouraging Saeed to start discussions with Pulley and cooperation with the Treating Team. He said he could put aside 2 hours a week over a month to do so, and that might help lessen the tension.

Saeed came in after they had left, and talked with Douglas and Brett for 20 minutes about what the problems were, what cooperation was possible and what Saeed’s hopes for the future were. He took a recovery bus and agreed to a proposal that would allow him to receive support and start to work with the Treating Team.

Pulley and Liz returned at 10.36am

Immediately Pulley said: “I have talked with Adrian Keller and we feel that we need to act today with the injections. It is in the best interests of getting you out of here. I want to let you know that.”

Brett said that he was really sad to hear that. We felt that we had a useful proposal and agreement with Saeed, but you haven’t listened to that and are just delivering a fait accompli, and forcing a confrontation. I think it is really disrespectful and it gets my back up. Why is there an urgency? Even as a layperson you can see in Saeed’s eyes that he is medicated. Why can’t you do a blood test?  Pulley said that blood tests for this medication wasn’t available in Australia.

Douglas said he was flabbergasted. He said he was still available to help Saeed if he wants. Saeed said that it was all an attempt to get him out of the Forensic hospital. He wanted to go to Bunyah but knew that it would be 7-9 years after that before he was allowed to re-enter the community. Previously in 2010 they recommended he be in Morisset but Saeed had denied his mental illness and they didn’t like that so rejected him.

Pulley said that Saeed could pursue his legal rights, to challenge on fitness to plead and try to get a limiting term, but he could also progress through the system at the same time. That he had lost 18months in his recent reversal from Eloura Ward when he refused depot medication. Saeed said others aren’t forced to take depot and are let into medium security. Pulley said it depends on each case. Pulley said you may not agree with this, but we believe you have delusions and that medication is critical.

Douglas said that he would talk with Liz Roberts and others about bringing in some educational material to the Hospital. He gave to Pulley the box of Narrative Resources.

Saeed said that his decision is clear. “There is no clinical justification for injecting me. To move me to medium security isn’t a proper reason. I will cease all oral medication and not eat or drink. I would lose face or honour if I didn’t. I was hoping to come to an agreement but that’s the way it is. I realise that I’m risking my life but the medication has caused me to have heart problems.

Brett offered Pulley a copy of Mad in Australia on the issue of medication. Pulley refused it saying he already had a copy.

Pulley and Liz left. Douglas Saeed and Brett talked.

Saeed said: I feel really rocked by that. Crushed. We couldn’t penetrate at all. If I take the injection I am still in a hospital for 7-9 years and Pulley agreed that is the process. I feel that I have nothing left. The medication they have given me so far has caused diabetes, a heart condition, high blood pressure, weight gain, cramps and loss of concentration, restlessness and I haven’t had any sexual arousal for five years. I feel detached from life with no light at the end of the tunnel. I have lost hope.”

Douglas and Brett assured him of their continuing support. Brett agreed to bring it back to the MHRT as soon as possible, rather than wait until April 3rd.

They left the hospital at 11.30am

Saeed rang Brett at 4.15pm and said that he had been injected at 11.45am and had been lying on his bed since. He said that he felt totally dejected.


Dear Dr Keller,

 Justice Action is most concerned about Saeed's well being. We are trying to resolve the tension involving Saeed, following the decision of Lindsay J. on 17/01/2014 to lift the injunction preventing the hospital from forcibly injecting Saeed.  After a wide consultation with stakeholders we have a proposal that could defuse the matter, and have been advised to approach you to help resolve it.


Saeed has told us, and we understand told your staff, that he will refuse all food, water, and even his heart medication if they hold him down and inject him with Zuclopenthixol. The advice we have is that, given his medical condition, this will rapidly be extremely dangerous. Though Saeed has not in the past rejected oral medication, he feels that the threatened injections will have much more serious side effects than he is presently suffering, and finds being forcibly injected extremely personally invasive. He trusts the psychiatrists who gave evidence before the Tribunal in September last year that the medication could do him harm, and has referred to Mad in Australia as supporting a better way, involving recovery principles. We see that Saeed is moving towards a very unpleasant confrontation, that will end, we understand, with him strapped to a hospital bed in the Prince of Wales Hospital with drips attached to keep him alive.  


We are most worried about this situation and the risk of serious harm that could result from the hospital’s imposition of its preferences for his care, especially when he feels that he has already more than paid the penalty for the act he did, if he was treated fairly with a limiting term, or treated as a criminal as fit to plead. (NSW Law Reform Commission Report 138, para 0.28)


We have talked with Saeed and have his support to approach you for another way to deal with this, with the cooperation of your team. The proposal would be that we ask for the assistance of Department of Health employed consumer workers to visit Saeed urgently to give him their professional assistance.


In preparation for this intervention, Justice Action has approached the NSW Mental Health Consumer Worker Committee (CWC) and has secured an undertaking from Mr Tim Heffernan, Chair of the CWC, to assist Saeed by providing two of their workers – similar to Certified Peer Specialists – for support. This undertaking also includes later provision of assistance by Consumer Workers in a Community Mental Health Team.


We urgently ask you to address this matter. Please acknowledge this email upon receipt.




Brett Collins




Dear Mr Collins

I acknowledge receipt of your email.

I will provide no undertakings in relation to the proposal you have put forward.

Mr Dezfouli’s treating team will be discussing his future management plan with Mr Dezfouli and yourself, as primary carer. They will consult with myself and other members of the Forensic Hospital team as is considered appropriate.

Yours sincerely

Adrian Keller

Clinical Director | The Forensic Hospital & Long Bay Hospitals

Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network


Commentary on Lindsay J’s Judgment Power of MHRT

The power of the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) to control the treatment of patients by the hospital was considered for the first time at the hearing about Saeed Dezfouli held on the 20th September 2013. Judicial member Helen Morgan asked Saeed’s lawyer:

You say the Tribunal has that power?”[1] After hearing all arguments the Tribunal stated it would only “intervene in exceptional circumstances”.[2]

That decision was challenged by the NSW Supreme Court. The recent judgment of Lindsay J in Saeed Dezfouli’s case [2014] NSWSC 31 establishes the Tribunal’s power over the mental health system.

The Mental Health Consumer Information Sheet was created after consultation with the Tribunal and Justice Health. Download here

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Developing Crisis: Injection despite new power of Tribunal

Now that the injunction protecting Saeed has been lifted, he is vulnerable to the threatened forced injection by the Forensic Hospital psychiatrists. In losing the injunction in the Supreme Court, Justice Action asked the Court to determine the extent of the Tribunal’s powers and responsibilities to control the hospital. A link to Lindsay J’s judgment on the case can be found here. [2014] NSWSC 31. Additionally, here is a commentary on Lindsay’s judgment.

 Lindsay J established “in aid of early preparations for a forthcoming review”, the Tribunal’s power over the mental health system, clearly endorsing that the best interests of the patient is the paramount consideration for the MHRT.

It is noteworthy that for the past two years, the hospital has not utilised their authority until now, and there is a gap before Saeed's next Review in March.


Despite the comments from Lindsay J, Dr. Rafe Pulley, the Justice Health psychiatrist at Long Bay Forensic Hospital called Brett (Saeed’s primary carer and legal tutor), telling him that forced injection of Saeed would happen on Tuesday February 18. He said that it was necessary before Saeed could be transferred to lower security.

Saeed has said that he will refuse all food, water and his heart medication if the authorities insist on forcibly injecting him with Zuclopenthixol, an antipsychotic drug that makes him feel sick and unable to think clearly amongst other side effects.

Justice Action has found this turn of events to be quite shocking. The best interests and rights of Saeed, as a person not disturbing anyone, are not being considered. They want to force him into submission by medication, as that is the NSW Health Department culture. He has become a symbol of resistance, and still the Tribunal and Supreme Court haven't been effective to stop it.


Justice Action has secured an undertaking from Tim Heffernan, Chair of the NSW Mental Health Consumer Worker Committee (CWC) to assist Saeed by providing two of their workers for support to de-escalate the tension. That approach is a basic principle of mental health treatment, but has been lost in the power play.

On 29th January 2014, Brett corresponded with Adrian Keller, Clinical Director at the Forensic and Long Bay Hospitals, urging that this undertaking secured by Justice Action be accepted. This proposal is now being discussed.


1 A (by his tutor Brett Collins) v Mental Health Review Tribunal (no 4) [2014] NSWSC 31 [2].

Update – 20/12/2013: Supreme Court & High Court Appeals


Update – 20/12/2013: Supreme Court & High Court Appeals


Two cases on consecutive days about Saeed! The Supreme Court looked at the legal power over the hospital, and the High Court looked at the same issue from an identical challenge almost exactly 3 years before.

In the Supreme Court, Justice Lindsay listened to arguments all day, with four lawyers in attendance, and has reserved his decision. In the High Court, intervention was refused for the $52 000 costs against us in the same challenge. Amazing stuff! Yet all those in the mental health industry agree that force against mental health patients, whether seclusion or restraint, is not therapeutic. The court will have to resolve this.

Supreme Court

Appearing before the Supreme Court via video link, Saeed appealed against the Mental Health Review Tribunal’s decision to leave the treating doctors power over his medication. The hospital had wanted to change Saeed’s medication from oral to injected form. This was strongly opposed by Saeed. This case is particularly influential, as it will serve as a precedent for future cases involving equity and the functionality of the Tribunal.

Saeed was represented in the hearing by barrister Scott Fraser, who argued that the Tribunal had not fulfilled its role to consider issues of personal liberty and the rights of individuals. Thus, medication against the patients’ wishes should remain a Tribunal responsibility, rather than being delegated to the treating doctors.

However, barrister Perry Herzfeld, who represented the Tribunal and Justice Health, argued that s 41 of the Mental health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 was deliberately broad, to allow for greater discretionary powers by the Tribunal so it could do what it wanted or do nothing to intervene.

Justice Lindsay has reserved his decision.

High Court Appeal

The High Court of Australia has dismissed our appeal against the $52,000 court costs made against us.

This saga began in November 2010 when Justice Johnson in the Supreme Court dismissed our appeal against the Mental Health Review Tribunal’s treatment of Saeed. This led to our hearing at the Court of Appeal on 9 July 2013, which was also dismissed.

The decision by the High Court, being the final and highest court in Australia, means the issue once again falls into the Attorney General Greg Smith’s lap. Mr Smith would need to decide whether or not to enforce an order based upon a lie, regarding an issue which is clearly extremely important: the use of force against mentally ill persons.

The High Court decision can be found at www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCASL/2013/202.html

Update Saeed High Court of Australia Appeal

Saeed's case is now before the High Court of Australia, in the latest thrust to expose the structural abuse of people in mental hospitals, and the lack of accountability to standards of respect.

The High Court has to consider whether there is a valid Public Interest to protect individuals like Saeed who come under the jurisdiction of the NSW Mental Health Act, and whether the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities should be considered. Additionally whether the NSW Attorney General should be permitted to claim court costs based upon an exposed lie.

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Landmark Public Interest Battle Looming

Justice Action has a case around "A", before the Mental Health Review Tribunal. It will define the rights of people and their carers to challenge their treatment in mental hospitals.
Although the language of government responses to mental health support is changing rapidly to the “person-centred approach of recovery”, the reality on the ground is still authoritarian with coercion and forced medication the standard treatment. It is easy, cheap, and certain.

Justice Action has been asking the Tribunal to assert its power over the hospital since 2009. JA appealed to the Supreme Court over its refusal, and is arguing before the High Court of Australia the Public Interest to protect people in mental hospitals and support the UN Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities. Now the Tribunal has squarely before it psychiatric evidence that the hospital has damaged A’s health by its forced treatment. 

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Saeed: Report on $36,000 Costs Hearing in Court of Appeal


 Costs appeal 28 June 2013

The Justice Action team outside the Court of Appeal on Friday 28 June 2013


Report on $36,000 Costs Hearing in Court of Appeal

On Friday 28 June 2013, Justices Ruth McColl and Fabian Gleeson heard Saeed Dezfouli’s application for leave to appeal. Appeal is sought against the cost order of $36,000 made by Justice Johnson in the Supreme Court against Saeed and his primary carer. The decision has been reserved until a later date to be determined. If the court grants leave, a further hearing will be heard in front of three judges to determine the appeal itself.

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