Uncategorized — 29 December 2012

Homocide detectives were yesterday investigating the suspected killing of a patient by another at a high-security psychiatric hospital in Melbourne amid concerns about lax controls at the facility.

The body of a man was found in a bedroom at the Thomas Embling Hospital at Fairfield, in Melbourne’s northeast, at 6.30am yesterday.

Police are treating the death as suspicious amid reports that a second patient was also attacked.

The Australian understands that police questioned a suspect, Lee Johnson, 30, who had a significant history of violence in jail and in the community.

Johnson, who suffers paranoid schizophrenia, has been previously housed in maximum security prisons in Victoria. He had previously stabbed a prison officer in the head at Barwon Prison and attacked another officer with a cricket bat at Port Phillip Prison.

Prior to his transfer to Thomas Embling, Johnson had been in solitary confinement and spent 18 hours a day in his cell with access only to a small exercise yard.

The 116-bed Thomas Embling, which opened in 2000 as a forensic mental-health facility, is for patients transferred from the criminal justice system who have been diagnosed with mental illness or detained by court order for psychiatric assessment and treatment.

A former state clinical worker said security at the hospital was too relaxed, with inmates allowed to walk between units unsupervised. “These inmates are extremely high risk and need to be kept in maximum-security conditions,” the worker said.

The worker said inmates from other jails were known to feign mental illness to transfer to Thomas Embling, which they regarded as “a holiday camp”.

In 2009, a patient, Peko Lakovski, used a carving knife to kill Paul Notas, 36, and Raymond Splatt, 54, in a low-security unit at the hospital. He was found not guilty of the murders by reason of mental impairment and returned to the hospital. Sources have confirmed he was not involved in the latest incident.

Health and Community Services Union state secretary Lloyd Williams said a second high-security forensic mental health unit was needed in Victoria, as Thomas Embling was always full.

He said the facility was a hospital, not a jail, and staff were not guards but worked in therapeutic roles.

The Australian revealed this month the proposed Ravenhall medium-security prison in Melbourne’s west would have a dedicated 75-bed forensic mental-health centre when operational in 2017.

As first appeared in The Australian, 28 December 2012.


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