Legislation 'gap' leaves vulnerable elderly woman in custody
IN WHAT a Toowoomba barrister has labelled a "ridiculous" gap in legislation, an 86-year-old woman with no criminal history is languishing in custody over a neighbourhood dispute.
Barrister Shane MacDonald suspects his client may have the onset of dementia but due to holes in legislation he couldn't get her assessed in order to have her moved from the watch house to a more appropriate room at the hospital.
"The court has mental health nurses to assess people in the watch house who are thought to be suffering a mental health issue," he said.
"My client was assessed and recommended to be assessed by the hospital's mental health officers but (as of yesterday) the hospital had not done so.
"The hospital claims dementia is a medical issue and not a mental health issue and so it doesn't come under the Mental Health Act.
"We need a system that gets the person assessed and treated, not left languishing in jail.
"It's almost elder abuse by the government."
The 86-year-old woman has been involved in an ongoing dispute with her 62-year-old male neighbour.
Police claim on Thursday the woman damaged some of her neighbour's property and during an ensuing argument she had struck him with a stick.
Police claim she spat at an officer on their arrival.
Remanded in custody, she remained in the watch house as Mr MacDonald appeared on her behalf in Toowoomba Magistrates Court.
She is charged with serious assault of a person over 60, serious assault of police, common assault, two counts of obstructing police and three of wilful damage.
Mr MacDonald said it was his understanding that the hospital would not assess his client unless she was remanded in custody.
It was unlikely his client would be granted bail to go home and she had no other family with whom to reside.
After discussions with Magistrate Damian Carroll, Mr MacDonald said it might be best if he made no application for bail at this stage and asked for a two-week adjournment in the hope that his client being held in custody might force the hand of medical authorities to assess her.
Mr Carroll acceded to the request and remanded the woman in custody and adjourned the case for mention on September 4.