Friday, March 20, 2009

Complacent South Australian prosecutors refuse to arrest a dangerous nut -- with appalling consequences

They refused to act even after urgent approaches from the Parole Board

Parole Board chief Frances Nelson, QC, has blamed weak laws for Monday's tragic attack that left a man and a boy dead and a newborn baby injured. Angry and distressed, Ms Nelson told The Advertiser yesterday that she had asked the Director of Public Prosecutions at least four times to have mentally ill drug addict David James Wyatt locked up because he was a danger to the community. Ms Nelson also lashed out at laws governing mentally ill offenders subject to supervision orders, saying she had warned Attorney-General Michael Atkinson of a looming "disaster".

Wyatt, 24, killed his son, 2, and stabbed his partner, 21, and baby daughter before fatally stabbing himself in the family's Charlson St home at Davoren Park at 2am on Monday.

"I was just horrified because I think they are two deaths that needn't have happened and one of them is a child and I think that is appalling," Ms Nelson said. "His partner is critically ill and the 15-day-old baby was stabbed and it distresses me that I knew there was a potential for serious violence and I was impotent to do anything about it."

Wyatt was placed on a four-year mental health supervision licence for robbing a woman at knifepoint at Parafield Gardens in February, 2005. He was suffering a drug-induced psychosis and was found not guilty of aggravated robbery by reason of mental incompetence, meaning he could not be jailed, but could be detained in a mental institution. Under state laws, the Parole Board is given responsibility for monitoring offenders, such as Wyatt, released into the community on mental-health licences.

Ms Nelson, however, said the board was powerless to detain mentally-ill patients. "It gives us the statutory responsibility to supervise these people but doesn't give us the power to do it properly," she said. "Unfortunately, I have to say that I spoke to the Attorney, I think at the end of February, about (mental-health supervision laws) and I said to him `there will be a disaster if something isn't done'."

She said the Director of Public Prosecutions was reluctant to ask courts to revoke mental-health orders because of a shortage of beds in such facilities as James Nash House.

Ms Nelson said if her board had the power to revoke licences, Monday's tragedy most likely would have been avoided. "If he were an ordinary parolee, we would have brought him in on a warrant until he sorted himself out. That's the tragedy," Ms Nelson said.

Despite repeated warnings from the Parole Board, Wyatt was allowed to remain in the community. In court last year, Wyatt claimed he was not getting help for "voices" in his head.

Despite what she described as "classic warning signs," Ms Nelson said the weakness of laws to detain mentally-ill offenders had allowed Wyatt to remain in the community. "I have been telling government for years that this is a serious defect in the legislation and I had concerns that community safety is compromised as a result . . . (but) no one has been prepared to do anything about it," Ms Nelson said.

She said she and other Parole Board officials had interviewed Wyatt several times. They warned him his continued breaches of his conditions could land him back in custody. "He certainly had a history of drug-induced psychosis . . . he may well have had some mental illness but, it seems to me, that his basic problem was drug and alcohol use," Ms Nelson said of Wyatt. "The last date that we requested the DPP do something was on the 12th of February.

"The DPP wrote back and told us that notwithstanding that he wasn't reporting and he was non compliant, they were not going to act on the breach of licence that we reported."

More here. (Via Australian Politics)

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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