Judges Need Education on Insanity Acquittals
Judges Need Education on Insanity Acquittals– Victim Advocate
Victim advocate Graeme Moyle is concerned that Judges in insanity cases mislead the families of victims when making their final judgements.
Zarn Tarapata who fatally stabbed two people in an Auckland pawn shop in 2014 will be detained indefinitely in a secure mental health unit Justice Moore ruled in the Auckland High Court on Friday.
Tarapata was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity last year for the murders of 69-year-old Paul Fanning and 47-year-old Paul Matthews.
Moyle is angry that Judges do not present things accurately in regards to length of detention of special patients or their pathway to release, leaving victims with a false sense of security.
“I read these decisions regularly” says Moyle,” Judges routinely state that offenders acquitted due to insanity will likely spend more time in psychiatric care than if they’d been found guilty and sentenced to prison”
“This too is the public’s perception, yet it is far from the reality”
“The average length of inpatient detention of a special patient is around six years”.
“To suggest a mentally ill killer will be detained longer than someone convicted of murder is simply untrue”.
“These statements give the victims a sense of relief in the knowledge that the offender will be held in a secure facility for a determinant length of time”, says Moyle, “however they are re-victimised when they learn that the patient has been released a few years later”.
“Just ask the Marceau family”.
Christie Marceau's killer, Akshay Chand, is being allowed to leave the Mason Clinic, a secure mental health facility where he is being housed, just six years after his deadly attack.
Miss Marceaus parents, Brian and Tracey, were unaware Chand had been granted leave until they found out via the media. He has been seen at an Auckland public library, McDonald's and Countdown.
Using the recent Tarapata acquittal, Moyle cites other statements which are misleading to victims and the public in general.
Justice Moore, when releasing his judgement on Friday stated that the length of a special patient order is determined by the Minister of Health. Public safety and the patient’s interests are paramount considerations for the Minister. The Minister consults the Director of Mental Health when considering whether a special patient should be discharged.
“While this is the case in terms of discharge it misrepresents the pathway to discharge for special patients”, Moyle says.
“In reality these patients are released into the community many years before the Minister of Health gets involved”.
“A special patient is first granted escorted leave which then, on the advice of clinicians, progresses onto unescorted leave, that is, unsupervised community leave”.
“The patient’s clinicians apply to the Director of Mental Health who is responsible for granting this leave without consultation with the Minister”.
“This means an offender can be living unsupervised in the community for many years before the Minister finally discharges them from special patient status”.
Moyle says “it’s time judges upskilled themselves in relation to the leave provisions for these patients rather than mislead vulnerable victims and set them up for the traumatic news that the offender will be soon out on the streets”.
“With the Ministry of Health’s philosophy of ‘least restrictive care’ there is no doubt in my mind that Mr Tarapata will be roaming the streets within a few short years”, Moyle said.
A record number of New Zealanders were found not guilty by reason of insanity in New Zealand courts in 2016.
The figures from that year show the defence was successfully used by 34 people compared with just four in 2000.
Graeme Moyle is the brother of Colin Moyle who was murdered by Matthew Ahlquist in 2007. Ahlquist was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity.
Mr Moyle now advocates for victims of mentally ill offenders and lobbies Government for reform in this area.