No charges over Lake Alice abuse allegations

NO PROSECUTION: Dr Selwyn Leeks.
KEN IRWIN/Sunday Age
NO PROSECUTION: Dr Selwyn Leeks.

The man at the centre of historic allegations of abuse against 40 young people in a mental health facility will not face charges.

Police announced today there was insufficient evidence to charge Dr Selwyn Leeks, who ran the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit in the 1970s, due to a lack of evidence.

Forty people had complained about their treatment in the notorious unit at the hospital, sparking the latest investigation.

The former Lake Alice patients claimed they were given electric shock treatment or injections of a painful hypnotic-sedative drug, paraldehyde, as punishment for misbehaviour. They also claim they were physically and sexually abused in the clinic during Dr Leeks' tenure, from 1972 to 1977.

In 2001, the government apologised and gave compensation to a group of former patients of the unit. It later extended these to a second group, bringing the total paid to 183 people to $10.7 million.

Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said in a statement today that, despite a lengthy investigation, police had decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Dr Leeks.

Police had reviewed medical files, searched records and carried out further interviews of witnesses and complainants.

In addition to the police enquiries, material was assembled from the Ombudsman's inquiry in 1977 and the Commission of Inquiry from 1977, but failed to yield enough evidence, Mr Burgess said.

Mr Burgess said that the inquiry was made more difficult by the historic nature of the alleged abuses.

"These events happened over thirty years ago. Some witnesses have died, others were unable to accurately recall events to the level of detail required, some records and original files that may have assisted the inquiry have been lost or destroyed," he said.

The inquiry, which was renewed in 2006 following the receipt of two additional complaints, was now concluded, he said.

He said that each of the complainants had been advised of the outcome of the inquiry.

Dr Leeks moved to Australia in the late 1970s. In 2006, he escaped a doctors' disciplinary inquiry in Victoria by promising not to practise again.