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Mental Health Powers Queried

28 May 2014

18 May 2014, Sunday Mail Brisbane, Page 13

By Renee Viellaris

MAGISTRATES and justices of the peace face being stripped of their power to force people to be assessed for mental illness.

Queensland's Mental Health Commissioner, Dr Lesley van Schoubroeck, has questioned the purpose of justice examination orders (JEOs), given most cases were dismissed by doctors who interviewed the person involved.

The issue is part of a review into the Mental Health Act, which Dr van Schoubroeck says could work better. While not pre-empting the outcome of the review, she said she expected the issue would be debated.

"I think we use it (JEOs) as a convenient mechanism ... and I would wonder why with the access to GPs ... why a JP would be a person who said, 'Yes, I agree with you Mrs Jones. Your son's floridly psychotic (and) should be taken to a mental health facility to be assessed'," she said.

She said there were other concerns, including trapping people with a mental illness in the criminal justice system after they committed minor crimes.

She also argued that education was the key to treating people with mental illness.

The Sunday Mail last year revealed that a Brisbane mother who killed her daughter with an axe before jumping to her death from the Story Bridge was deemed not to be a threat by doctors just months before the murder-suicide.

In 2011, Kim Patterson killed herself and her 14-yr-old daughter Sidonie Thompson.

Psychiatrist Ness McVie did a review into Ms Patterson's treatment and was critical of some clinicians involved.

The Sunday Mail report sparked a review by Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.

He has said he was confident all appropriate steps had been taken by Queensland Health.