3 Jul 2014

Health boss would've supported detaining woman

8:11 pm on 3 July 2014

The head of Mental Health Services in Waikato says he would have supported staff going outside the letter of the law to restrain a patient who escaped and then killed a woman.

Rees Tapsell was giving evidence at the inquest for Diane White, who was killed by Christine Morris in January 2010.

The 53-year-old was hit with a hammer in a frenzied attack at her Hamilton home. Two years later, Morris was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life, with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years. She is a paranoid schizophrenic with a borderline personality disorder.

On Thursday the inquest was told the psychiatric registrar dealing with Morris was so concerned about her threats to kill Mrs White that he was in the process of having her committed as a compulsory patient.

Morris escaped before he could do it, and as a voluntary patient she couldn't be held.

Dr Tapsell agreed with Coroner Peter Ryan there was a loophole in the law covering the intervening period. He says it's clear if a patient is deemed a serious risk, they should be detained immediately.

In Morris' case, Dr Tapsell said he would have supported staff if they had stopped her - even if that later turned out to be illegal under the Mental Health Act.