Contrary to the evidence presented, we lost the latest hearing into whether Malcolm Baker could be forcibly medicated.
Malcolm attended the Mental Review Health Tribunal on the 19th of April 2018 with the support of three members of the Justice Action team. Justice Health brought its team of psychiatrists who were committed to forcibly medicating Malcolm, with no evidence to support the risk of serious harm to self or others as required by the law. It was obvious that they thought they didn’t need any. Also, Malcolm was clearly suffering from side effects of the medication, drooling and unable to form full sentences. The Tribunal agreed that he was in bad shape and expressed their sympathies, however they still gave the order to continue the treatment for another 3 months.
When the chair asked the psychiatrist for the worst-case scenario if they were to stop medicating him, they responded; “he could become difficult to manage.” It was a clear admission that Justice Health saw its responsibility to help manage the prison rather than to look after the health of its patient. The side effects of the medication were horrendous – clearly poison to his system.
The culture of mental health in prisons meant that the Tribunal almost always agrees to Justice Health’s requests regardless of evidence. Justice Health agreed that they couldn’t enforce the order in Silverwater prison and would need to move Malcolm back to Long Bay to continue forcibly injecting him.
Justice Health tried to justify its desire to forcibly medicate Malcolm with a misleading 10-page statement suggesting that he had a long history of proven mental illness. Malcolm’s team dissected it and showed that not only did the two psychiatrists at his trial in 1992 say he was not psychotic, they also said he would not be a danger to the community in the future.
In addition, Malcolm demonstrated a successful resettlement in mainstream Nowra prison in 2014, and for long periods before and after without being forcibly medicated. This was for a period of 3 years between 2012-15, 14 months between 2015-16, and just under 2 years from 2016-2018. He had also been held for fifteen years in virtual solitary confinement in Goulburn SuperMax with no stated justification; however, he survived with good humour and stoicism, remaining in contact with his family and Justice Action.
On several occasions Malcolm has been forcibly medicated with varied justifications, such as that others were attacking him, or he had attempted to write a letter to a Senator.
In three different cases before February 2018, Malcolm was taken before the Mental Health Review Tribunal who proceeded to reject the application by Justice Health for a Community Treatment Order. These cases occurred on 7th August 2012, 30th April 2015, and most recently 24th July 2016.
Before Malcolm’s tribunal hearing on 1st February 2018, the head of his treating team admitted that Malcolm had not attacked anyone nor harmed himself during the 26 years of his imprisonment. No evidence has ever been produced to suggest otherwise. He is a non-violent prisoner.
After the hearing Malcolm gave each team member a warm hug goodbye. He then said, “now I’m just going to go back to my cell, and they’re going to inject me.” The Justice Action’s team felt their heart break for Malcolm in the wake of this disappointing result.
Malcolm Baker’s case demonstrates the inhumane culture of mental health in prisons. Justice Action will certainly appeal to the Supreme Court. We began the process the next day by requesting the audio transcript of the hearing.