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Media Releases

Victims Reconciliation with Mental Patients Blocked

Media release Monday November 19, 2018

“Secret Victim Impact Statements (VIS) as proposed in the law before Parliament this week would deny the victim and mentally ill offender involvement in restorative justice. It is a misunderstanding of the process and must not pass. The victims’ groups agree with us” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

“Passing the Bill  would mean that the victim does not engage with the offender to express their pain, achieve an understanding of why the event occurred, and reach a possible reconciliation. There is no similar provision in the criminal law as secrecy negates the intention of the VIS” said Mr Collins.

“Research  resoundingly supports the benefits to victims of the restorative justice process. The VIS provides a chance for the offender to be confronted with the effect of the offence, and to acknowledge it. Processes like circle sentencing and youth conferencing are based upon this principle. Restorative justice builds community through forgiveness. There must be a chance for the forensic patient to ask for forgiveness and have a chance at reconciliation. See research paper said Mr Collins.

“The idea that mentally ill offenders have less rights than those who consciously offended, is a misunderstanding of the basic principles of discrimination law and fairness. It relegates such offenders to having less standing in a court, and infringes on a basic procedural right of our legal system. Misstatements could be made, misunderstood and never confronted. Often families include both victim and offender, who are all part of this pain” said Mr Collins.

“In reality, the government continues to mistreat victims. Compensation was reduced from $50,000 to $15,000 in 2013 despite calls for its return. This legislation is bullying disabled people in an attempt to satisfy the pain of the victim, whipped up by media interest. It’s a misguided King Hit, with the system blindfolding the offender and assuming some satisfaction to the victim in the process. It must not be passed in this form” said Mr Collins.

South Australian Ombudsman Supports iExpress

The SA Ombudsman Wayne Lines has made a resounding criticism of the Department of Correctional Services attempts to block SA prisoners’ access to iExpress and its full internet services. For over a year DCSSA has blocked South Australian prisoners from any communication with Justice Action, declaring it to be a “media outlet” and finally just naming Justice Action specifically and banning it entirely.

Here is the final Report declaring it as being “unreasonable” and presenting it to the Minister. The Ombudsman says that it is a matter of public interest. View Ombudsman letter here and Report here.

All Australian states and territories and NZ except SA have accepted the role of iExpress as a platform for presenting a personal profile and using the email service.

Hundreds of people in prisons and hospitals use the email service with many sending and receiving from their families and friends regularly every week.

Some people also have their own profile on the iExpress website maintained on the basis that only positive community building statements will be accepted. No complaint has been made about any material that hasn’t been resolved.

In SA the Commissioner insisted that JA remove all SA prisoners’ profiles, and wouldn’t discuss any particular objections to any particular person’s material. JA continued to ask him for specific details so they could be addressed, but left the profiles in place as they complied with the law and community standards.

The Commissioner then declared JA to be a “media outlet” and therefore subject to special restriction. He then brought in two special “Instructions” in 2015 and 2016 that finally meant no prisoners could send or receive any letter to or from JA about any matter.

A prisoner complained to the Ombudsman and JA followed with its complaint.

The Decision

The Ombudsman has legallly found that JA is a multipurpose not a media organization (cl 33), hasn’t breached the Act (cl 27), SA prisoners should be entitled to communicate with JA, and should be allowed access to the internet through JA with the email service and profile as long as it wasn’t used as a dating site. Advocacy was legitimate and reasonable. (cl 44 and 45 and 46.)

He said: “I welcome and encourage dialogue between the department and Justice Action.” (cl.37)

He also said that banning the national pre-election newspaper JUST US (the only jurisdiction not to distribute it) was punitive (cl 42 and 43). This means that the constitutional right of prisoners to be informed before the last Federal election was breached. JA has been to the Supreme Court three times on that issue.

Justice Action is asking for an urgent meeting with DCSSA to establish a fresh positive relationship for the benefit of all the community, and building respect rather than isolation, anger and resentment.

Life Prisoners Give Evidence - Life After Life

Media Release Monday November 23, 2015

Today from 9am the NSW Law & Justice Committee will hold public hearings into the treatment of life sentence prisoners never to be released.

Justice Action will bring people with special experience to give evidence to the Committee at 11.15am.

Mr Robert Veen is an Aboriginal man who has served two consecutive life sentences. Mr Garry Page, described as an aggressive psychopath, served a life sentence after voluntarily submitting to brain surgery. Mr John Killick spent many decades in the highest security prisons with lifers before and after his helicopter escape from Silverwater prison.

Evidence will also be offered of a joint online counselling proposal to reduce recidivism prepared by victims’ organisation Enough is Enough and Justice Action that has been before CSNSW since 2014 without any progress. Justice Action will ask for the Committee's support for this service to lifers and other prisoners.

Witnesses will be available for interview at the lunch break 12.45pm at the back of Parliament House.

Here is the Victims submissions analysis and earlier media releases on the meaning of the isolation of Minister David Elliott.

   

New Punishment Regime Opposed by Victims Groups

Media Release Thursday November 19, 2015

None of the twenty-six submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry support the action of Corrections Minister David Elliott in creating a 'living dead' status, under pressure from the media. The victims’ organisations support offender rehabilitation programs, want respect for prisoners’ human rights and increased funding for victims. Most submissions (analysis) criticised the information provided to victims and said the situation need not have occurred.

This public contradiction provides a chance to solve difficult questions around crime. Media commercial interests and political vulnerability have distorted justice policy to give unwanted vengeance to victims instead of solving the problems. The same pressures have created chaos with an exploding prison population despite falling crime rates.

This stark exposure of structural defects provides a chance for the adoption of Justice Reinvestment principles. The people with ‘standing' have spoken. Intensive correctional orders with electronic monitoring should accompany the closing of prisons. The money saved should be spent equally upon victims and offenders, going to where the problems are in the community. Multinational prison companies must not be allowed to build isolated housing, incubating crime, and costing $100,000 a year a prisoner whilst sapping much needed services.

Restorative Justice as shown by the SBSTV Insight program provides a human way to atone and heal our community even in the worst cases. 

Patient damaged after forced medication

Media Release 29 October 2015

“As Mental Health Month ends, Saeed Dezfouli comes before the Mental Health Review Tribunal today with detailed evidence of the harm caused by the anti-psychotic drugs forced on him. His lawyer Peter O’Brien will ask the Tribunal to stop it. His case shows the fundamental disrespect we have for those we describe as mentally ill” said his primary carer, Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

“He now suffers diabetes mellitus, Ischemic heart disease, coronary heart disease, and weight gain. These incontrovertible effects are labelled as risks. Independent psychiatrists have confirmed that Saeed possesses a genetic inability to properly metabolise the anti-psychotic mediations. This makes the ongoing forced administration of such drugs even more reprehensible. Last week a friend visiting Saeed commented ‘I found it incredibly alarming to see such a physical deterioration from a fit and healthy man’” said Mr Collins.

Saeed Dezfouli is a forensic patient who has been in detention since 19 January 2002. Over the past 13 and a half years, Saeed has been continuously forcibly medicated with nine changes in the injections. He challenged his treatment in the Supreme Court in 2010 and 2013, and later successfully won the right to use his own name” said Mr Collins.

“An alternative treatment plan using social support has been rejected by the Forensic Hospital. Recommendations by the Tribunal in March 2014 for a consumer worker to assist his recovery, and access to a computer for his education 'as soon as practicable' have had not effect. His psychiatrist Dr Yola Lucire and former Chair of the Consumer Worker Committee Douglas Holmes will be giving evidence today. Rhetoric about consumer-centred care in mental health is really systemic abuse costing over $200,000 a year for each person like Saeed” said Mr Collins.

 

Life Prisoners' Inquiry Media Release

Life Prisoners Protest

Media Release October 29, 2015

Six prisoners on total life sentences never to be released have written a Submission to the NSW Legislative Council in response to an Inquiry into current practices for determining the Security Classification and Management of Prisoners Sentenced to Life Imprisonment. There will be public hearings on the matter on the 23rd and 27th of November.

The inquiry proposes the punishment and exclusion of prisoners more severe than ever before. Holding prisoners under deliberately destructive, high security conditions for the rest of their lives, denying them access to rehabilitation services that could help them learn and improve, potentially reduces them to a status of ‘living dead’.

Justice Action’s submission emphasises the importance of the Rule of Law in sentencing in order to ensure the key principles of hope, rehabilitation, reconciliation and the privacy and victims are upheld.

The inquiry has been established due to community concerns, garnered by media exposure of a victim’s grief regarding Minister David Elliott’s decision to lower the security status of inmates on total life sentences. Following a broadcast of the story on A Current Affair, Minister Elliott revoked the reclassification. It politicises grief and encourages an increase in the involvement of victims and the rest of the community in determining the sentencing of the accused.

The goal of the government is not to honour victim’s wishes but to gain political benefits from grief. Victim’s needs are being assessed through the scope of punishment for the offender. In 2013 the government reduced victim compensation for sexual assault from $50,000 to $15,000, attempting to placate victims with harsher penalties for the accused but failing to be responsive to victims’ personal needs.

Life Prisoners Protest

Media Release October 28, 2015

“Six prisoners on total life sentences never to be released have written submissions to the NSW Legislative Council in response to an Inquiry into current practices for determining the Security Classification and Management of Prisoners Sentenced to Life Imprisonment. There will be public hearings on the matter on the 23rd and 27th of November,” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins. 

“Minister Elliott has proposed to the Inquiry the punishment and exclusion of prisoners more severe than ever before. The proposal is to lock them up under deliberately destructive, high security conditions for the rest of their lives, denying them access to rehabilitation services that could help them learn and improve. It would reduce them to the status of ‘living dead’,” said Mr Collins. 

“His proposal would breach many basic principles of our community including the Rule of Law, the philosophy of hope, the authority of the court, the potential for reconciliation, the right to development and the privacy of victims. It is disgraceful wedge politics for which he must be condemned" said Mr Collins.

“The Inquiry was established following the exposure by A Current Affair of a victim’s anger at the offender’s reclassification. Under media attention, Minister Elliott revoked that classification and those of all other total lifers. But the Government’s real attitude to victims was exposed when in 2013 it reduced victim compensation payments such as for sexual assault from $50,000 to $15,000. The Baird Government is politicising grief, legitimising vengeance and abandoning compassion for not only victims and offenders but for the whole community,” said Mr Collins. 

Comments: Brett Collins 0438 705 003

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 on “extending the requirement for the court to set a limiting term for all forensic patients”.  (Report 138 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”

Media Release 2/4/15

Media Release April 2, 2015

“Make Orders!” says Saeed

“The Mental Health Review Tribunal is a dysfunctional and corrupt organisation and a waste of the taxpayer’s money. This disgraceful Tribunal hides behind the NSW Mental Health Department. Make orders as you are required!”
– Saeed Dezfouli (9 March 2015)

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On the 26th March, the Mental Health Review Tribunal reasserted its unwillingness to intervene by reviewing and authorising medication changes made by Justice Health. Saeed Dezfouli is currently being forcibly injected with 200mg of clopixol.

Saeed was attacked on Monday the 8th of December 2014 at 2:15pm. Dr Barbara Sinclair wished to talk with him for a minute, however Saeed stated that he did not want to talk unless Brett Collins (his primary carer) was present. Upon refusing to enter the treatment room, Saeed was dragged to his own room instead. His face was pushed down onto the floor and someone sat on him to hold him down, which results in Saeed feeling as though he “couldn’t breathe.” He was screaming and his pants were removed so he could be forcibly injected in the buttocks. At 3:45pm the same day, Saeed phoned Brett about the assault: “Brett, I am shocked; they just attacked me.”

However, while the MHRT Tribunal President Howard SC had previously provided a non-authoritative recommendation that “the paliperidone (not clopixol) will continue”, the inaction of the Tribunal has allowed Saeed’s doctors to issue a change in medication to clopixol, which causes Saeed a number of painful side effects, without notice. Due to the lack of a binding order mandating use of peliperidone and a history of failure in enforcing decisions against Justice Health, Dr Sinclair is free to administer possibly harmful drugs with no fear of reprimand.

The MHRT has claimed that they did not have authority to make orders relating to Saeed’s medication. However, Justice Action believes that these actions do not satisfy the MHRT’s supervisory obligations. We have been working tirelessly to compel the MHRT to effectively exercise their jurisdiction to hold Justice Health doctors accountable. The MHRT’s complete lack of action is in contradiction with their clearly stated objectives.

The provision of a consumer worker to Saeed, an outstanding recommendation by the Tribunal, still stands and was reaffirmed by the Tribunal on the 26th March. Delays in providing this service have been attributed to slow processing and objections to providing Saeed with an ‘advocate’, however, Justice Action is merely seeking a NSW Health consumer worker.

Justice Action has repeatedly sought legal injunctions that would require the MHRT to act in accordance with their ethical and legal responsibilities. In the process of this campaign, Justice Action has been hit with a $60,000 debt for court fees. The government however, has since withdrawn this debt and Justice Action will continue its fight to protect the most vulnerable members of our justice system.

-Ends -

More information on website: www.justiceaction.org.au

Comments: Brett Collins 0438 705003

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