A Hail Mary pass to the mental health system from the bench

court

JUSTICE Penfold’s sentencing of Kenneth Weldon for assault occasioning actual bodily harm was published yesterday and raises difficult questions about the intersections of the legal and mental health systems.

Kenneth is very obviously a seriously troubled soul. A methadone dependent, transgender, unemployed, indigenous Australian with diagnoses of Paranoid Schizophrenia aggravated by substances, Gender Identity Disorder, and Polysubstance Abuse Disorder, from a broken, abusive home who has recently found god.

His crime was one for which much of the blame can be shared.

On March 19 2012 in Wanniassa his neighbour told police she was going to kill him and then attacked him with a large carving knife.

The police transcripts in the sentencing feature calls from both parties asking for police assistance that did not come. This from just prior to the incident:

Complainant: Hello. Um, look, this is [name of complex], we’ve got a woman here – well a shim – it’s already been told that it can’t come any – a hundred metres. Um, it’s already starting to – it’s smashing bottles crap, and saying that it’s going to kill us.
Police: Okay, are they in the house at the moment?
Complainant: No, but it’s an Aboriginal guy that’s going from a transition into woman.
Police: Okay.
Complainant: Yeah, it’s already been, you know, warned – – –
Police: Okay, Ii you want to – – –
Complainant: – – – and locked up.
Police: Yeah, no, I understand that, but given that it’s not a life threatening emergency at the moment – – –
Complainant: Well, it’s threatening us at the moment.
Police: Oh, okay. But you need to call on one three one triple four.
Complainant: One three one triple four.
Police: Yes.
Complainant: Oh, okay.
Police: Okay, call on that number and you can discuss it – – –
Complainant: Oh, we’ll kill him and f***ing you can wipe it up later.

Fortunately for Kenneth his attacker, drunk on a bottle of port consumed in an afternoon, fell over dropping her knife.

Unfortunately he picked up the knife and attacked her with it, apparently without stabbing or slicing.

Justice Penfold sentenced him to 14 months in prison before suspending the sentence subject to good behaviour and undertaking such counselling, courses, programs or treatments as directed by his. supervising officer.

She concluded with these remarks:

Mr Weldon, it’s odd in my view that neither the Pre-Sentence Report author nor Dr Allnutt makes any recommendations about what kind of help would be useful in relation to your mental health, but it seems to me that this may be the key to your capacity to avoid further offending. This is something that I recommend that you discuss with your Corrective Services supervisor, that is, what sort of mental health help you might be able to get access to.

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