25 Sep 2020

Abuse in care: Woman given ECT with no anaesthetic or muscle relaxant

8:31 am on 25 September 2020

A woman who was subjected to harsh and cruel treatment while a teenager at Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital still wants the man responsible brought to justice.

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File photo. Photo: Unsplash / Matthew Ansley

Leonie McInroe says the Crown colluded with the head of the adolescent unit, Dr Selwyn Leeks to protect him.

She says she will never have closure until he's held accountable and he and those who worked with him are prosecuted.

McInroe gave evidence on Thursday to the Abuse in Care Royal Commission sitting in Auckland.

Leonie McInroe was wrongly diagnosed by Dr Leeks as a borderline schizophrenic when she was 12 years old.

She was at Lake Alice for 18 months between 1975 and 77.

While there she was given massive doses of medication and electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT by Dr Leeks.

McInroe said it was often used as a punishment.

''Dr Leeks gave me shock treatment himself and I remained conscious until I was unconscious. There was no anaesthetic, there was no muscle relaxant and I recall that vividly.''

Punishment also included injections of anti-psychotic drugs.

''The naughty behaviour we were punished with drugs, seclusion and other forms of punishment were like talking, moving or giggling while the staff were watching Days of Our Lives.''

McInroe first lodged a claim for medical misadventure in 1992, this was followed with a claim to ACC and then civil proceedings were launched.

For the next nearly 10 years her battle continued.

The Crown also brought Dr Leeks back to New Zealand for a mediation hearing and swore McInroe to secrecy about this. The mediation failed.

She believes the Crown deliberately dragged out the process.

''Strategic, intentional delay and compensation protection tactics from the Crown who, the longer it went, on seemed to be fully defending Dr Leeks.''

"I found the Crown's behaviour appalling and indefensible. I eventually came to believe the Crown behaved in a way described best as trickery,'' she said.

A further obstacle was thrown up by the Crown in 2001 when they asked for her to be assessed by a forensic psychiatrist.

Even after much protestation from McInroe the Crown insisted the assessment be carried out at the Mason Clinic in Auckland, which re-traumatised her again.

''I felt them making me meet and be clinically assessed by a forensic psychiatrist at the Mason Clinic was another abusive tactic and strategy to reveal some form of mental illness to justify my treatment in Lake Alice.''

McInroe said she has never understood why Dr Leeks was not prosecuted.

She believes the Crown were protecting him.

''I continue to believe this today given the fact he was never held accountable in law for what he had done to vulnerable children and there was plenty of evidence that what he was doing was not acceptable practice at that time.''

She said the response from the Crown over the years to her and other child survivors of Lake Alice has been an abject failure.

''The doctors and staff were employed by the Crown and while, in their care in a Crown-owned hospital run by the Crown, the children were subject to continuous, unlawful and cruel treatment.''

McInroe said, throughout her journey to seek justice she was faced with a relentless, calculated, intentional abuse of power.

''For me it has been wholly inadequate, degrading, dehumanising and completely deficient of justice.

McInroe believes if there is a legacy to be left it is in a message to her grandchildren.

''Be fearless to speak the truth, go well beyond any fears of humiliation or your own vulnerabilities, be fearless to stand up for what is right and just.''

McInroe's parting wish was for Dr Leeks to return from Australia to face criminal charges, and that the staff be collectively held to account.

She also wants a meaningful public apology for the suffering endured by the children of Lake Alice.

Royal Commission chair Judge Coral Shaw indicated that the Commission would hold a full investigation into Lake Alice next year.

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