MM

This case example comes from the ‘Bath Report’ – a forensic examination of the events that lead to MM being incarcerated in the Alice Springs Correctional Centre on a Custodial Supervision Order for the manslaughter of his uncle. By the age of six it was clear that MM has global developmental delays and significant behavioural problems

Between May 1997 and August 2007, there were six Child Protection notifications for MM. The first child protection notification concerned neglect and resulted in a family support referral.  In 1998 MM entered care in a voluntary Temporary Custody Agreement although it is unclear what precipitated this as it was not documented. The placement lasted for six weeks and was apparently terminated due to the family expressingconcerns for MM’s safety due to the fact that he kept absconding.  At this point concerns were identified about the family’s capacity to provide care for him and respond to his special needs and his behaviours of concern.

During this time MM’s behaviours continued to be challenging and he is reported as being hyperactive, easily distracted, impulsive, destructive andaggressive.  He had periods of head banging, running away and drinking his own urine, terrorising younger children and the elderly and being cruel to animals.  There are reports of him dismembering a puppy and biting the head off asnake.

In August 1999, there was a fourth notification as MM had killed a puppy and dismembered its legs. He was also sighted walking around a member of thecommunity with an axe in his hand. Thisresulted in a Family and Children’s Services Protective Assessment, which found that MM was a 'Child in Need'.  Thenotification resulted in a psychiatric assessment and placement in the Boylan ward at Adelaide’s Women and Children’s Hospital.  The assessment noted that MM had an intellectual disability, secondary hypoxia with uncontrolled seizures.  The psychiatrist recommended an increase in supervision on community as well as periods of respite off the community.  Behaviour intervention strategies were developed however it was acknowledged that these were difficult to implement oncommunity, that MM was unsupervised during the bulk of the day and that no person had responsibility for supervising him.

At this time a second case conference was held and the Challenging Behaviours Team and Care Coordination was identified but these did not become fullyoperational.  At this time a community based project was initiated for a behaviour intervention project based on community began and this seemed to coincide with the cessation of involvement by family and Children’s Services.  An application to the Court to declare MM a ‘ChildIn Need’failed to eventuate

In 2005, the Department of Health and Families divested itself of responsibility for the care and support of MM and funded MM’s community to provide support tohim. This is despite extensive experience around the fact that the community did not have the capacity nor the skills to manage such a complex individual. The community then identified MM’s uncle as the person who had responsibility for caring for MM.  MM’suncle was a good man who also had an alcohol addiction. 

Following the transfer of funding and responsibility for MM to his community there seemed to have been little involvement by Aged and Disability in monitoring thesituation on community.  Between 2005 and 2007, MM seems to have experienced a significant period of instability where he did not access any education or disability programs.  Inearly January 2007, MM was again found dismembering animals on community. There was no critical incident response and no escalation of the issue to disability management.  In late January, MM stabbed his aunt on community fracturing her arm.  Again there was no critical incident response and no escalation of the issue to disability management. This situation involved ‘payback’ from the community to MM and his uncle and they were both beaten up as a result.

A psychiatrist’s report at this time stated that MM’s uncle was unable to provide care and support for MM and that MM’s uncle had asked that MM be taken offcommunity. Disability Services advised that there was no alternativeaccommodation for MM.

In April 2007, MM destroyed all the property in his uncle’s house, throwing a metal tool at his uncle, which embedded itself in the fridge door.  Again there was no critical incident response and no escalation of issue to disability management.  Later in May 2007, MM assaulted a young girl on community with a pick-axe.  Nocritical incident response was initiated and no escalation of issue to disability management occurred.

In September 2007, MM was taken into custody and charged with the stabbing of his uncle, which resulted in his uncle’s death.  MM was then held in the Alice Springs juvenile detention centre from September 2007 until his transfer to the Alice Springs Correctional Centre in June 2009.

MM is currently the subject of a Custodial Supervision Order. This Order resulted from his trial in 2009where he was found unfit to plead and mentally impaired with diminished responsibility for the manslaughter of his uncle. Judge Mildren then sentenced MM to be held in the Alice Springs Correctional Centre for the period of 9.5 years. This sentence period did not include the two years that MM had already spent in the Alice Springs Juvenile Holding Centre waiting for his trial to commence. In all MM will have been detained for a period of 11.5 years by the time the Custodial Supervision Order is completed.

Judge Mildren decided that MM needed to be supervised in the Alice Springs Correctional Centre, which is a maximum-security jail. Two significant issuesdetermined his thinking. The first issue is that no other secure accommodation and support option that provided treatment of significant benefit existed for MM at the time, and still does not exist. The second is that a letter from the Acting Manager of Disability Services, Mr Arthur Firkin recommended Alice Springs Correctional Centre as the place to manage MM’s significant risk of serious harm to others.

In the first independent assessment of MM’s significant risk of serious harm to others, a report dated 19 February 2011 by Ms Cathy Leigh-Smith, found that whilst MM requires a high level of intervention and supervision to adequately manage risk:

  • The level of restrictive intervention (such as the use of mechanical restraints and high levels of supervision when accessing communal areas) and the restrictive living conditions MM resides under are not commensurate with the level of risk MM currently presents with

  • There is a lack of discussion and planning around a systematic and evidence based approach to reduce the level of restrictiveness over time

  • That less restrictive options have not been trialled with MM

  • That Mr Arthur Firkin’s (Acting Manager Disability Support Team, Aged and Disability) statement to the Supreme Court that MM would require rapid access to custodial officers and restraint as required to ensure community and client safety was not evidence based

  • That previous attempts at community based interventions have been compromised by the fact that they have not been comprehensive enough to adequately address the multiple and complexissues that contribute to MM’s offending behaviour

  • That being incarcerated over an extended period of time exposes MM to the risk of institutionalisation and will lack access to normal experiences and opportunities that enhance emotional well-being and facilitate skill development.

  •