7 Dec 2021

Lake Alice Hospital abuse: Royal Commission rejects Selwyn Leeks' lawyer's submission

7:35 pm on 7 December 2021

A psychiatrist accused of torturing patients at the Lake Alice child and adolescent unit has failed to escape criticism from a Royal Commission.

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(File photo). Photo: Supplied

The Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care this year heard harrowing submissions from former patients at the unit, which operated in the 1970s in Rangitīkei, near Marton.

Many said they were subject to abuse at the hands of the unit's lead psychiatrist, Dr Selwyn Leeks, or at his instigation.

This included the use of electric shock therapy for punishment, injecting children with drugs, and sexual offending.

Leeks, who lives in Australia, did not appear at the inquiry, but was represented by lawyer Hayden Rattray.

In a submission to the Royal Commission, Rattray said it should not make "any findings adverse to Dr Leeks" because Leeks could not take part in the inquiry.

But in a decision issued on Tuesday evening, the Royal Commission has rejected this.

Rattray said Leeks' age, 92, and cognitive impairment meant he could not "exercise his rights as a core participant to give evidence or make submissions".

Rattray cited a professional assessment from April that found Leeks could be suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

"He submits Dr Leeks is incapable of being aware of the matters upon which adverse findings would be based, and incapable of responding to those matters," the inquiry decision said.

It was satisfied reasonable steps were taken to ensure Leeks was aware of the basis upon which critical findings of him were made, and he had had the chance to respond.

"In particular, the inquiry has ensured that independent legal advice has been provided to Dr Leeks, funded by the inquiry."

It had done everything it could to make sure Leeks' previous comments about the Lake Alice unit, including statements to the press, police and past inquiries, were taken into account.

Rattray was shown a draft copy of proposed text of the inquiry report, but did not suggest the findings were unfair or not supported by evidence.

The inquiry is due to release its report by June 2023.

Police are expected to soon announce whether Leeks and other unit staff will face charges resulting from their latest investigation.

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