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Time Off For Mental Health Factors Not Safe For Community, Says Victims Family

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Time Off For Mental Health Factors Not Safe For Community, Says Victims Family

The family of a man set alight and killed by a mental health patient say a judge's indulgent sentence for murder because of mental health factors in a recent sentencing set a dangerous precedent.

At the Auckland High Court on Friday, Justice Tim Brewer sentenced Wayne Reid to 10 years imprisonment without a minimum non-parole period for the murder of 84-year-old Beryl Campbell. Although a jury rejected Reid's insanity defence, Justice Brewer said in sentencing that the crime was the result of Reid's mental illness and the sentence length reflected that.

Graeme Moyle, whose brother Colin Moyle was murdered in 2007 by mental health patient Matthew Ahlquist, said the Justice Brewer's sentencing considerations set a dangerous precedent and would open the door for other killers to claim retrospective undiagnosed mental illness as a defence and get time off at sentencing.

"Giving a sentence discount based on an undiagnosed mental illness when insanity has been rejected by a jury is unjust and frankly, very dangerous. If Reid really is mentally ill he should be in a Forensic Psychiatric facility and receiving treatment, not in a prison with a short sentence because of his condition."

Mr Moyle said Friday's sentence flew in the face of serious concerns raised by the Chief Ombudsman two years ago that New Zealand prisons were becoming the dumping ground for those with serious mental health problems because Mental Health services could not cope.

At the time, ombudsman Beverly Wakem advised that all prisoners with mental illness should be given access to inpatient beds without delay as the current situation was putting staff and other prisoners at risk.

Two years on, Mr Moyle said last Friday's sentencing showed nothing had changed and the community continued to be put at risk because people with dangerous mental health conditions were not getting the help they needed.

"One wonders who has the mental illness in these situations," Mr Moyle said.

"Research shows that offenders with most major mental illnesses were over represented in prison but as all the facilities that housed these inmates were closed down by Helen Clarke's administration there is no-where else to send them but out onto the streets where the public is at risk."

An estimated 15 percent of inmates should be receiving mental health care but with increasing prison musters and a lack of inpatient beds available, mental health services were increasingly under pressure.

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