Thursday, August 21, 2003

Fascist law to close loopholes?

IT SHOULD be known as Fascist law, changes to legislation that will further traumatise the mentally ill. This will give NSW Health cart blanch to mismanage the mentally ill with no fear of retribution.

The Government yesterday moved to take away victims rights in two new pieces of legislation, which were highlighted by the awarding of $300,000 compensation to Kevin Presland.

But we missed the point here because the mismanagement of patients by NSW health actually caused a crime, that would not have been committed if their duty of care was properly exercised, therefore this was not an award to a criminal it was a penalty imposed on the NSW Health for failing the community in their duty of care.

Kelley-Anne Laws was stabbed by her fiancee's brother, Kevin Presland, but this week Presland proved to the court he was a victim of the health system.

NSW Health lodged an appeal yesterday but both Premier Bob Carr and Attorney-General Bob Debus made preparations to introduce a special clause.

Instead of the victims family protesting yesterday their lawyer should have sued the NSW Health for the loss. The family of Ms Laws yesterday urged the Government to make the amendments in honour of their daughter. "Call it Kelley's law, Kelley's clause whatever," an emotional Peter Laws Kelley Anne's father said.

"Just do it for her and make sure no other family has to go through this."

But Eric McCormack from NSW Justice Advocacy Centre said, "This is not pro-active it is simply re-active and doesn't serve the people by re-acting to every individual pressure group. The public must remember this award was a penalty given out against the NSW Heath for the failure of their duty of care to the community."

Presland killed Ms Laws in 1995, hours after being released from a psychiatric hospital. He later sued, claiming the doctor breached his duty of care by putting him back on the streets. Justice Michael Adams agreed and granted Presland compensation. The case succeeded despite the Carr Government introducing laws last year aimed at stopping criminals profiting from their offences.

Mr McCormack said, " I object strongly to the criminalisation of people simply because they have an illness. It is un-lawful and unconstitutional. How long before they start imprisoning the disabled?"

Presland escaped the Civil Liability Bill because it is not retrospective, while the Proceeds of Crime Act only covers commercial transactions such as royalties on books.

The Proceeds of Crime Act

Once again the Carr Government makes a concerted attack on community safety by removing the rights of ex-prisoners to lawfully earn an income from writing books and telling their stories. That law must surely set back the cause of rehabilitation, placing the community at further risk, having less knowledge and understanding of the cause of crime and prisons. And once again breaches the very foundation of the rule of law, by introducing double jeopardy.

Carr described the decision of Justice Adams as "risky law-making" and maintained the law had already been fixed.

However, he said an amendment was imminent if the appeal failed. "If there's any further mopping up to do we'll do it," Carr said.

By removing the rights of the courts to penalise institutions who fail in their duty of care to the community. The Government is being urged to tighten the legislation, regardless of the appeal.

Opposition spokesman on legal affairs Andrew Tink said liability laws would not have stopped Presland being awarded damages.

"He was found not to be of sound mind when he killed Kelley-Anne Laws," Mr Tink said.

"The problem is Presland did not commit a murder, because he lacked criminal intent."

A spokesman for Debus said the proceeds of crime legislation was retrospective and allowed the Government to confiscate money and assets from criminals.

However, as it stands it does not include compensation awarded by the courts.

Kelley's family are determined to ensure changes are made.

"None of this makes sense," Mr Laws said.

"How was he [Presland] able to take things this far. We believe there are five other similar cases waiting to be heard. Something needs to be done now. Changes have to be made.

"We want changes made so this man doesn't get anything or anyone else involved in crime gets anything. "No one should profit from murder or any other crime."

By Mentally Ill 21 August 03

THE DOG: The police sniffer pup bit the postman, who was then sued for contaminating an animal, the dog was awarded compensation for his unlawful act. Carr seizes the compensation and is currently enjoying the Gold Coast sunshine, while the postman died of rabies.


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