Review of WA Justice Centres

Ex-judge to assess centre

Toyah Shakespeare | January 26, 2016, 1:00 AM | Eastern Reporter

Bassendean MLA Dave Kelly and Perth MHR Alannah MacTiernan talk to the media and residents outside the Lockridge Disability Justice Centre. Picture: David Baylis Click here to buy this photo http://www.communitypix.com.au/SearchForm.aspx?pn=d448870

ONE of the State’s top legal minds has been recruited to assess the suitability of the residents of Lockridge’s Bennett Brook Disability Justice Centre to help reduce “community angst”. Retired Supreme Court Justice Peter Blaxell, who led the inquiry into sexual abuse at Katanning’s St Andrew’s Hostel, along with Edith Cowan University Professor Colleen Hayward, will look into the plans, programs and services at the five-month-old centre.

The announcement from Disability Services Minister Helen Morton last Wednesday left many local residents disappointed because the review will not address the suitability of the centre’s location, which they believe is too close to homes and schools.

It follows the absconding of two residents – accused of crimes but who are mentally unfit to stand trial – from the centre on New Year’s Eve.

Ms Morton said the independent review, set to be released this week, would add to the internal security review taking place.

“The absconding and the response have caused the community to feel anxious… I can certainly appreciate how they would have felt with helicop-ters and dog squads,” she said.

“The review will be a way of easing the minds of the community about the suitability of the residents who come to this place.

“The location is ideal from our point of view and we’ll look at that again in three to four years time.”

Ms Morton said she believed the residents chosen for the centre were suitable.

But it is understood one of three detainees was recently returned to Hakea Prison.

Ms Morton said the fence would be upgraded, but she did not want the facility to look like a prison.

Caversham resident Karen Mercer, who has two young children, said while she believed there was a need for the centre, it should not be so close to homes and schools and did not have council support.

“We’d prefer the centre not used as a justice centre… I don’t want my family and community put at risk,” Ms Mercer said.

She wanted the community alerted if there was an escape.

Perth MHR Alannah MacTiernan said the facility, which cost $8.5 million to build, was a waste of money given it housed only two people.