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Estimates: Questions on isolation and long-term detention at the Forensic Disability Service at Wacol

During Parliamentary Estimates on Tuesday 15 December 2020, I asked a series of questions about the Forensic Disability Service.

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: I have a number of questions in relation to the Forensic Disability Service as well. It may be that those are questions for Mr Lupi or others. Question on notice 19(b) notes that one person
has been detained for nine years and four months at the FDS. Is it the case that, effectively, that person has been detained since the FDS has opened?

Mr CRAWFORD: I will ask Matthew Lupi to respond.

Mr Lupi: I think the client you are referring to entered the service shortly after the service was commissioned. They were ordered to be detained at the service by the Mental Health Court at the time. I think it was about 2012. The service was commissioned just before that, so they were not the first client admitted.

Mr BERKMAN: It seems like the sums do not quite add up. I would have assumed that nine years and four months would have taken us back into 2011. Perhaps that is a question of arithmetic that we can deal with later. Is the person you are referring to the man referred to as ‘Adrian’ in the Queensland Ombudsman’s report?

Mr CRAWFORD: Madam Chair, I do not want our department to divulge any information that might breach a person’s privacy. I just caution you on that question.

Mr BERKMAN: Certainly.

CHAIR: Yes, that is right. Member, under the standing orders we do need to be cautious about using names. If you could rephrase your question—

Mr BERKMAN: I might just preface the question by saying that the person referred to by the name ‘Adrian’ is explicitly referred to in the Ombudsman’s report and is referred to in the questions on notice and the answers. This is not new information and I do not think it in fact identifies a person by their actual personal particulars. I am just trying to establish: is that person the same person who is referred to in these reports and in the questions on notice and answers as ‘Adrian’?

Mr CRAWFORD: I am happy for Mr Lupi to take that question.

Mr Lupi: Yes, I can confirm that the person referred to in answer to question on notice 19 as ‘Adrian’ is the client you are referring to.

CHAIR: Member, you have one last question before we move to government questions.

Mr BERKMAN: Point of order, Chair. Can I inquire: how many minutes have you allowed me to question so far? Is there a reason I cannot be allowed to pursue a slightly longer line of questioning than the, I would suggest, maybe three or four minutes I have been allowed so far?

CHAIR: Member, we may have time to come back to you. You have one more question.

Mr BERKMAN: Is the man referred to as ‘Adrian’ still being routinely held in isolation?

Mr Lupi: I can confirm for the committee that, subject to the Forensic Disability Act, which allows for a senior practitioner to make an order for seclusion if it is for the client’s safety or for the safety of others, a client may be separated from other parties. In terms of one particular client, referred to in the Ombudsman’s report—they have been at the FDS for a long period of time and they are an incredibly complex and challenging client—it is the case that, to manage the daily risk for staff, for that client themselves and for other clients at the service, there are often periods of seclusion from other clients and from staff for safety. Those are always risk assessed decisions taken by duly qualified officers under the policies and procedures issued by the Director of Forensic Disability and in accordance with the act.

The client while in seclusion, just to be clear, has full access to all of their personal possessions. They have access to their bedroom, their bathroom, a living room, a craft room and two outdoor areas. The only area that a normal resident of the FDS would have other access to is the kitchen. It is not what would be painted as isolation, and staff are constantly engaging with that client whilst they are in that arrangement, and the client at any time can make requests of staff for any of their needs.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Lupi—

Mr BERKMAN: Can I just check, though—

CHAIR: Order!

Mr BERKMAN: I will use your terminology. Is he still being held in seclusion—

CHAIR: Order!

Mr BERKMAN: The question was not answered, Chair.

CHAIR: Member, we will come back to your question.

Mr BERKMAN: Can I ask that the witness answer the question?

CHAIR: Member—

Mr BERKMAN: Is the man referred to as ‘Adrian’ still being held in seclusion in the FDS?

CHAIR: Member, it is now time to move on to government questions.

I got another question in later:

CHAIR: Member for Maiwar, you are welcome to ask a question. Member for Maiwar, I remind you that you must put your questions to the minister or to the director-general.

Mr BERKMAN: Certainly. I will put this question to the director-general in the first instance. Have any charges been laid in relation to breaches of the Forensic Disability Act or other unlawful conduct at the FDS, whether or not those incidents were identified in the Queensland Ombudsman’s report?

Dr Sarra: I will ask Jenny Lynas to respond to that particular question, thank you.

Ms Lynas: That is probably best dealt with by Mr Lupi, as I take it that you are talking about staffing.

Mr CRAWFORD: I am happy with that, Chair.

Mr Lupi: Through you, Madam Chair, can I ask the member to repeat the question so that I can be really clear?

Mr BERKMAN: Have any charges been laid in relation to breaches of the Forensic Disability Act or other unlawful conduct at the FDS, whether or not those incidents were identified in the Queensland Ombudsman’s report?

Mr Lupi: I can advise that I am not aware of any charges laid by Queensland police against staff at the Forensic Disability Service for breaches under the Forensic Disability Act. If there were matters that were not brought to our attention, that is a matter for police. I am not aware of any.

Mr BERKMAN: The answer to question on notice 15(c), in relation to the Queensland Ombudsman’s report, states, ‘All recommendations have been actioned and finalised.’ Minister, based on your personal knowledge of the FDS, do you understand that to be the case?


CHAIR: Thank you, member for Maiwar.

Mr BERKMAN: I have further questions, Chair, if I could be allowed just a moment longer.

CHAIR: Thank you, member for Maiwar. Unfortunately we have to move to government members. I call the member for Nicklin.

Mr BERKMAN: Two minutes questioning, Chair? Honestly. As a full-time member of this committee I am making a genuine request that you afford me more than two minutes at a time to ask questions.

CHAIR: I am sorry, member: on the first occasion you were given five minutes. I have asked the member for Nicklin to resume the questioning.

And a further clarification later again:

Mr BERKMAN: I will return to the question I sought an answer to in the first bracket of questions I was given. My question is to the DG. Can you confirm whether the man referred to as ‘Adrian’ in the Ombudsman’s report is still routinely being held under seclusion orders?

Dr Sarra: The client in question obviously is incredibly complex and brings complex matters. Jenny Lynas spoke about that matter earlier. Were there some elements of her response to your question that were not attended to adequately?

Mr BERKMAN: The specific question that I have asked again and that I asked earlier of the assistant director-general is whether that man is currently routinely being held under seclusion orders? Is that still happening?

CHAIR: Member for Maiwar, I am conscious that we are bordering on repetition because that question was answered earlier in the session.

Mr CRAWFORD: Madam Chair, I am happy to bring one of the departmental officials up if they can give a succinct answer to the member for Maiwar. I think broadly the answer is yes. I might ask Mr Lupi to answer that.

Mr Lupi: Just to be clear about seclusion, every period of seclusion must be authorised based on the current circumstances. A maximum period of seclusion can be only three hours. At all times while they are secluded they are under observation and supervision for their safety and wellbeing. In relation to the care of ‘Adrian’, his risk and his treatment plan still requires high levels of seclusion to manage his safety and the safety of staff.

There has been real progress over the last 12 months in relation to opportunities for him to get out and interact with other clients as well as exercise within the perimeter of the service. We are progress driven by the work the staff are doing around his positive behaviour support plan. Yes, as needed, the senior practitioner will make a seclusion order where it is deemed necessary.

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