WA Disability Justice Centres

'Jason' has spent his entire adult life in detention because he has a disability. If he didn't or if it affected him differently, he'd have been tried and either found not guilty and released or guilty and sentenced and he would no doubt have completed his sentence some years ago.

The community campaign against the disability justice centre, lead by the Federal Member for Perth Alannah McTiernan and the State Member for Bassendean Dave Kelly, has in no way challenged the indefinite detention of Jason or the Centre's current residents or potential residents. All it has done is to demand that their indefinite detention be conducted some place else. Some place next to a prison. What this says is: we think these people should be in jail, but we get shouldn't put them in jail because they haven't been convicted so let's put them in a prison by another name.

The sentiment of this campaign is perfectly captured in its often shared slogan that Lockridge is not a 'dumping ground'. The implication of this message is that the Centre residents or potential residents are some form of human rubbish that is being thoughtlessly thrown into this community. What message does this send to the children who also appear in this campaign about the 'Jason's' of this world? 19 years of people asking for just such a service doesn't strike me as thoughtless. Injustice and the abuse of human rights, due process and natural justice has a human face. Where are the Parliamentary voices demanding that a law that contravenes all standards

Impaired man held for 13 years without trial

Disability Services Minister Helen Morton has refused to give details of the men’s cases, saying laws prevent her disclosing such information.

One of two men who escaped from WA’s only disability justice centre has been in custody for more than a decade after being found unfit for trial over allegations that at age 14 he crashed a stolen car, killing his cousin.

The West Australian can now reveal the backgrounds of the two men whose New Year’s Eve escape from the Bennett Brook centre sparked debate about the facility’s suitability. Disability Services Minister Helen Morton has refused to give details of the men’s cases, saying laws prevent her disclosing such information.

But independent advocate Taryn Harvey has revealed one of the men has been in custody since being accused of driving a stolen car that crashed after a police chase in August 2003, killing his 12-year-old cousin.

A ward of the State, Jason (not his real name) was charged with offences including manslaughter. But being mentally and cognitively impaired after years of solvent abuse, he was declared unfit to stand trial.

The West understands the second man, referred to as Abraham (not his real name) inThe West in 2013, has been in custody since being charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl after absconding from supported disability housing in 2009.

Experts found Abraham, who was put on an indefinite custody order in 2010, was not a sexual predator or deviant and was not prone to violence. But he had the intellectual capacity of a young child, was likely to reoffend and there were inadequate accommodation options for him in the community.

Ms Harvey said Jason, now aged 27, had been “failed at every turn” by the system.

She said he had been an ideal candidate for the centre, but he had been given inadequate support for the move to the facility.

During his time in custody, he had not been given an intensive treatment plan to address his substance abuse.

Ms Harvey said Jason scaled two perimeter fences to leave the centre before visiting family, who returned him to the facility. He was now back in prison in a crisis care unit because of concerns about his wellbeing.

She said Jason’s overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, boredom and inadequate support had led to him absconding, but the escape was not a reason to close or move the centre.

“Jason has been failed by the system at every turn and if he remains in prison again indefinitely, then what we are doing is making him pay for the inadequacies of the system,” Ms Harvey said.

Mrs Morton, who has commissioned an independent analysis of the centre, said there had been too few options for mentally impaired accused people.

“I will not let one incident derail the potential this facility has to provide better outcomes for people,” she said.