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Media Releases

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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Sydney NSW 2000, Australia
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www.justiceaction.org.au

United Nations Urges Mental Law Changes

"Local cases challenging forced medication of vulnerable patients in Australia, now have backing from the UN" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins. 

"The UN Committee for Disability condemned Australia for forcibly medicating and detaining people affected by mental illness. Australia was the only country of the 79 that have ratified UNCRPD to reserve its right to forcibly medicate the disabled. It directly urged Australia to rethink its policies and to comply with international human rights standards" said Mr Collins.

“The Committee recommends that Australia should repeal all legislation that authorises medical interventions without free and informed consent of the persons with disabilities concerned…” - Concluding Observations on the initial report on Australia, adopted by the Committee at its tenth session (2-13 September 2013), para 34.

"The media has successfully challenged the secrecy of the area, with the ABC applying for the right to report on Saeed Dezfouli's hearings before the Mental Tribunal, Supreme Court and High Court of Australia, as well as Sydney City News investigative report pursuing it. After psychiatrists conflicted on whether it was "healthy" for Saeed to be able to use his name in his challenges, the Tribunal accepted on September 12 that it would cause damage to him and make him feel discriminated against to not retain his identity, and ordered the secrecy under s.162 to be lifted" said Mr Collins.              

"Other people in the community have now come out. Michael Riley for instance, is someone who is not afraid to reveal his story involving forced medication and compulsory detainment by health authorities. In a recent interview, Michael revealed that since being labeled as 'mentally ill' he has suffered constant abuse and has been treated as a criminal by the health system rather than have the support he deserves" said Mr Collins.

"Psychiatrists are also starting to speak up about the dangerous effects of forced medication. In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, psychiatrist Dr David Bell, said that the antipsychotic medication could, at the dosage recommended by the treating team, “damage the brain as well as producing the metabolic syndrome” (p 4) and “at that level it produces effects that can resemble mental illness such as schizophrenic psychosis” (p 4)" said Mr Collins.

Comments: Brett Collins 0438 705003

Court Stops Forced Medication

The campaign for the rights of people detained in hospitals has achieved major victories! On Friday 4th October 2013, the Supreme Court confirmed its injunction stopping the forced injection of Saeed Dezfouli until a hearing on December 12. This has now become an appeal from the Mental Health Review Tribunal's (MHRT) decision on September 12 to allow the hospital to inject Saeed. But it did decide for the first time that it had the legal power to stop it. And the Tribunal gave permission to the ABC to use Saeed’s name in their reports on his case.

These developments represent important wins in the fight for Saeed to have a say in his treatment and his right to his identity. The battle lines are well defined. The health system is exposed as a merciless and expensive abuse of power cloaked as "care".

Media Release: doc  pdf

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Prisons and Hospital Votes are Muted

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"Following an Australian national campaign to ensure the enrolment of people in prisons and in hospitals, the result shows that many were blocked from doing so" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

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Death in Custody Action Plan: Ministerial Callous Indifference

 

“Prisoners join prison officers and the Opposition spokesperson for Justice, Paul Lynch, in calling for a Public Inquiry into the recent sequence of deaths. We now launch the Tracy Brannigan Action Plan,” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

 

“The Minister for Justice, Greg Smith, and Justice Health CEO, Julie Babineau have ignored the Action Plan, designed to prevent such deaths. If this Action Plan had been implemented and lessons in the Brannigan case acknowledged, the Silverwater murder-suicide deaths, a mere month later, would not have occurred,” said Mr. Collins.

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Mental Tribunal Permits Torture

Media Release on Monday, 17 September 2012:

"In a shocking revelation at a Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing last Thursday, a Justice Health psychiatrist admitted under cross examination that a prisoner is being forcibly medicated because he is “annoying” and may provoke other prisoners to attack him.  The doctor argued that by putting himself in danger he could be defined as a mentally ill person. Our lawyer demanded that he be left alone and treated as a non-violent elderly person entitled to dignity and humanity, and that he gets the 'care‘ as the Act directs” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

 

"The Tribunal refused to allow us to give evidence or listen to the proceedings by phone although the law requires the hearings to be public. As his only community support, the prisoner named us as his primary carer, having mentored him for ten years. We are in daily contact with him and have reconnected him with his family. The man said yesterday: 'I'm not the only one they're doing this to. Doctors used to help you if you asked them, but now I fear them more than the guards.' Under the Act, he cannot use his own name to protest about his treatment." said Mr Collins.

 

"This elderly man's treatment by Justice Health and Corrective Services undoubtedly amounts to torture. For 15 of his 20 years in jail, the prisoner has been held in effective solitary confinement in super maximum security despite his non-violent prison history. He is moved from cell to cell every four weeks, which denies him the stability of a home. When out of his unit, he is put in leg irons and handcuffs. He is assaulted and his possessions smashed while guards watch. He is told he is mentally ill and forcibly medicated despite his requests that he be left in peace, have a job and mix with others" said Mr Collins. 

 

"In a Justice Health Report to the Tribunal, factual errors show their lack of care. They have no idea who is or isn’t contacting him. They didn't disclose to him their concerns of a heart condition as a side effect of their medication, and censured him as demanding when he asked for a toothbrush to clean his teeth. In the past month, even with our intervention, he has only been allowed to brush his teeth 8 times. Unbelievably the report claims that the man 'has no insight into his mental illness' but 'We are hoping to build a therapeutic alliance with him and increase his antipsychotic medication if needed'. He is locked for 23 hours a day in a bare cell. ” said Mr Collins.

"The Minister for Justice Greg Smith and current Commissioner Peter Severin haven’t intervened despite receiving full information, and all other agencies with oversight responsibilities accept this treatment as normal. The prisoner has requested that Justice Action help him appeal to the Supreme Court. We have undertaken to stand beside him, holding a line for our community. We have prepared a case study and our lawyer tendered it to the Tribunal" said Mr Collins.

 

Woodham to Severin Media Pickup: Rights group wants prisons boss enquiry

The Australian and SMH are two of several news outlets who have picked up on our latest media release 'Woodham to Severin: A Culture Change in NSW Prisons?'. It argued that the promised ‘cultural changes’ in the failed NSW prison system touted by Attorney General Greg Smith are instead a consolidation of old behaviour and an expression of political duplicity by Smith. Additionally there has been followthrough on the exposed South Australian prison brutality.

Check out the news articles from the links below:
Sydney Morning Herald: http://tinyurl.com/cpe2ldq

 

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