Lake Alice inquiry criticised

Police are defending their investigation into allegations of abuse by a disgraced former psychologist at the Lake Alice mental institution.

The police's four-year inquiry into allegations of abuse against Dr Selwyn Leeks, who headed the hospital's child and adolescent unit in the 1970s, found there was insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges.

However, the inquiry has come under fire for failing to speak with all the complainants and the amount of time it took to complete.

Lawyer Grant Cameron, who successfully represented a group of patients who won $10.7million in civil settlements, believed police had enough evidence to prosecute.

"On my recollection of the file ... there was a very large amount if information which indicated that Dr Leeks should have been facing some sort of charges. However, the matter is for the police and what can you do."

There was information used in the civil case which alleged Dr Leeks had applied electric shock treatment (ECT) inappropriately. "That documentary evidence would have been pretty powerful in itself," Mr Cameron said,

Many of the Lake Alice patients were wards of the state, without mental illnesses, and should not have received ECT, he said. "So it was complete abuse to apply ECT."

However, Mr Cameron accepted that the historic nature of the allegations made it difficult to prosecute, and police would have found it hard to obtain accurate witness accounts, aside from the complainants themelves.

INQUIRY TOO LONG

Mr Camerson has also criticised the length of the investigation, saying it should have been completed after the civil settlements.

"That's the criticism I think should been leveled. That instead of getting on with the job in 2002 and having it resolved in 2002, here we are eight years down the track and that's totally outrageous."

It was also "not good enough" that police failed to speak with all of the complainants as part of this inquiry, he said.

Mr Cameron said police had not sought his input

This concern is echoed by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, whose executive director, Steve Greene, said that at least nine complainants had not been interviewed by police as part of the inquiry.

The commission had also sent "screeds" of evidence to police, but had been told it was not wanted, Mr Greene said.

It would now refer statements from victims to the United Nations.

"The key thing about this is justice is not being seen to be done."

POLICE RESPONSE

Police spokesman Jon Neilson confirmed that not all complainants had been spoken to.

"Some they did and some they didn't. We're not going into numbers."

Asked whether this was good enough, he said: "That's a judgment call, I don't know."

Mr Neilson said they had spoken with representatives of the commission but, because they had no personal knowledge of the events, they were of limited use to the inquiry.

As far as police were concerned, the investigation was complete, he said.

Mental Health expert John Dawson had not seen the police findings, but said there had been other investigations in the past, dating back to 1979.

The claimants' stories were likely to be well documented and it was not necessary to speak with each of them again, Prof Dawson said.

This could almost be seen as an abuse of the people itself, he said.

Stuff