Sunday, November 28

The Ombudsman highlights the ‘cruel and inhumane’ conditions in forensic units in a new report

Chief ombudsman Peter Boshier is concerned that the confinement environments in forensic units in the Wellington region “are not fit for purpose”.

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Chief of the Ombudsman Peter Boshier.
Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Today he published four reports after the inspections of the Haumietiketike intellectual disability forensic unit and three mental health forensic facilities at the Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB), Rātonga-Rua-O- Mental Health Campus. Porirua in July 2020.

The other three reports cover Rangipapa Forensic Acute Mental Health Unit, Tāwhirimātea Forensic Rehabilitation Unit, and Pūrehurehu Forensic Acute Mental Health Unit.

Issues raised in all four reports include customers sleeping in hallways and unequal treatment of customers in one of the facilities.

“These findings are of immense concern to me and I have again raised my specific concerns directly with the Executive Director of DHB. I will continue to raise these issues through my inspections and reports with the Ministry of Health and CCDHB,” Boshier said.

The inspections were carried out under the Torture Crimes Act 1989. New Zealand is a signatory to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, an international human rights agreement.

“While some of the conditions that I have serious concerns about can be attributed to poor design or a lack of investment in infrastructure, others are not,” Boshier said.

In a surprise inspection report from the Haumietiketike Unit, a client with an intellectual disability, ‘Client A’, was said to have been identified as permanently living in seclusion in previous Ombudsman reports from 2014 and 2018.

“In 2014, my predecessor reported on Client A’s living conditions, with recommendations for change. During my inspection in 2017, I discovered that Client A still lived in the same de-escalation bedroom that he had been in for approximately five years and medium, “Boshier said. .

When the 2020 inspection was conducted, Client A was found to still be living in the room. It was noted that the only face-to-face contact with staff or other customers was through a chain-link fence.

“I am disappointed that Client A still lived in conditions that I consider cruel and inhuman treatment and could constitute a violation of article 16 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT),” Boshier said.

After the 2020 inspection, Client A was moved to a new accommodation.

“Their living room was more inviting and spacious, there was an activity room and wearing a seat belt means they could have contact with staff,” Boshier said after a visit in February 2021.

“However, while I acknowledge the progress made in caring for Client A, as of February they were still effectively incarcerated. They were left alone, in a closed area, unable to leave. If they needed to use the bathroom at night, then it is necessary to call the staff. .

“Client A remained in conditions that are not suitable for his purpose. While I acknowledge that CCDHB considers that he is following the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, this treatment clearly meets the definition of seclusion and should be understood as such,” Boshier said.

He said that more needed to be done for the disabled client who had been living in effective seclusion for years.

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