Legislative Council: Thursday, March 21, 2024


Mental Health Services

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:21): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Attorney-General regarding mental health services.

Leave granted

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Julie Seed was allegedly murdered by Shaun Dunk on 20 December last year, just hours after he was released from a city mental health facility. It is known that police had detained Dunk under the Mental Health Act on 5 December after he presented at a city police station stating he was experiencing hallucinations of people threatening to kill him. It is understood he was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital by police several times in the weeks leading up to his detainment. He was released every time.

The Advertiser reported that police have claimed SA Health is releasing potentially violent and unstable patients on a daily basis, despite warnings. One officer told the paper that police were frustrated as they were unable to do anything to stop SA Health from releasing potentially dangerous offenders, stating:

You're supposed to be working for the common good and yet your hands are tied. It's an extreme risk to society.

The opposition understands the state's Chief Psychiatrist, Dr John Brayley, is working with two interstate experts to undertake an independent review into this situation. I understand from a reply to a question in the other place yesterday this report is due at the end of the month. We also understand there is a review of the Mental Health Act 2009, and submissions for this have closed.

The opposition has heard from constituents that there is growing unease in trends of vandalism, violence and, sadly, murder taking place while offenders are experiencing extreme mental health episodes. Therefore, my questions to the Attorney-General are:

1. Does the Attorney-General believe existing legislation adequately empowers police to act on intervention and mental health orders? If not, what legislation is he planning to introduce?

2. Has the Attorney-General taken any measures to ensure the courts are prepared to rapidly issue orders for public protection from people displaying violent behaviour during a mental health crisis?

3. Did the Attorney-General provide any input to the current review in relation to the Dunk case called by the Chief Psychiatrist, and what was the nature of that input?

4. Did the Attorney-General make a submission as part of the Mental Health Act review prior to submissions closing?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:24): I thank the honourable member for her questions. In relation to her first question, and as she has pointed out, it is my advice that there is a review underway into this particular incident.

I should say at the outset that all of our sympathies, I am sure, in here are with Ms Seed's family. I have certainly had the opportunity to meet with Ms Seed's partner, as well as the other victim in this case, and it is an absolutely tragic set of circumstances. As I have said, my advice is that there is a review into this particular case.

In relation to the second question, the Mental Health Act is committed to the Minister for Health, but we will happily provide any input we can in relation to the review they are undertaking. In relation to violent behaviour, the courts have a range of powers that we have given them, as a parliament, to deal with violent offenders.

In relation to the fourth question, the current review and input, we will certainly be giving any support we can as to the intersection of the criminal justice system with the mental health system. In relation to question 5, as I have said, I have had the fortune of being able to meet with Ms Seed's partner as well as the other victim in this tragic event that occurred.