Ex-Lake Alice staffer charged over ill-treatment of child

Source: 1News

A former staff member at Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital has been charged following an investigation into allegations of historic ill-treatment involving children and young people at the facility in the 1970s.

Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital.

An 89-year-old is set to appear in the Whanganui District Court on December 14, 2021 charged with wilful ill treatment of a child.

Operation Lake Alice included interviews with former staff at the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit, 63 former patients, and over 46,000 pages of documentary evidence, Detective Superintendent Tom Fitzgerald said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said while police "also found sufficient evidence to charge two other former staff members with wilful ill-treatment of a child", both individuals — including 92-year-old former child psychiatrist Selwyn Leeks — are now medically unfit to stand trial.

“It is important to note that this finding does not mean Mr Leeks is guilty of the alleged offence – he cannot be charged as he is unable to defend himself in court.”

READ MORE: Lake Alice and the legacy of abuse in state care on Māori

Fitzgerald said the conclusion of the investigation is an important milestone for complainants.

“Police acknowledges the enormous impact these events have had on the lives of those former patients who were children and young people at Lake Alice in the 1970s, and the frustration of those who have been waiting for us to complete this investigation,” he said.

“This operation involved unprecedented mass allegations, with complex legal arguments and expert medical evidence, so it was vital that we undertook a methodical and meticulous approach with thorough consideration of culpability.

READ MORE: Concerns over electrocution practices at Lake Alice were raised 50 years ago

Police have individually updated all former patients who engaged with the investigation since it began in February 2020.