Friday, November 11, 2016

Release of Report into the Treatment in Custody of Detainee at the AMC in Canberra

Independent Reviewer, Mr Philip Moss AM, provided the inquiry report to the Minister for Corrections Shane Rattenbury late Monday, 7 November 2016. I would like to acknowledge the important role that the Aboriginal community played in leading the call for scrutiny of the events that led to Mr Freeman's death.

The Government has released the report from the independent Inquiry into the Treatment in Custody of Detainee Steven Freeman. The inquiry considered the management of the custody and care of detainee Steven Freeman at the AMC and whether ACT Corrective Services systems operated effectively. 

It did not examine the circumstances and cause of death of Mr Freeman as that will be addressed by the police investigation and the Coroner. The inquiry examined and made recommendations to improve detainee management arrangements.

It is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about vulnerable people. It is not easy reading. It is distressing to see the points in which services failed this man. 

The report and submissions from key people and organisations, including Winnunga and ACT Health are available online
  • Tensions between ACT Health and ACTCS in relation to the mental health services (12.2.45)
  • The five-month delay in Mr Freeman receiving a dental appointment, despite indicating that he was in pain and that he was unable to eat or sleep due to the pain (12.2.38)
  • At the AMC, all detainees are required to undergo drug testing on induction but Mr Freeman was not tested as he was assaulted soon after arriving and taken to Canberra Hospital. The Inquiry concluded that Mr Freeman probably experienced withdrawal from his multi-substance use while in TCH and on immediate return to the AMC. The Inquiry notes that he did so without support (that is detoxification, medical or therapeutic program) (12.4.4)
  • The Inquiry was told that Steven Freeman originally appeared in court wearing a hospital gown. (This is something Mr Freeman's family was interested in.) The Inquiry concluded that ACT 
  • Health and ACT Correction Services need to ensure detainees transferred from hospital to the courts are provided with clothes and do not appear only wearing hospital garments (10.1.13)
  • The Inquiry concluded that there was inadequate information sharing in relation to Mr Freeman between Justice Health and Canberra Hospital. The Inquiry also concluded that the agencies involved in the care of detainees need to find a way to share relevant detainee related information, yet take into account all legislative, professional and ethical obligations (8.3.8)
  • The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) made recommendations relevant to this case. The Inquiry concludes further that ACTCS and ACT Health work with Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service to fund and embed its holistic health model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients (12.2.61)

Former ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope,  now works are Winnunga. He wrote a submission in his personal capacity. It is compelling reading. He sees this as representing "a worrying failure of leadership".
It is an important matter to monitor.

Darlene Cox
Executive Director

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