Health Minister needs to intervene to free Ashley Peacock

The Green Party is calling on the Minister of Health to give an immediate Ministerial Directive to the Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) to free an autistic man who has been locked in a cell-like room for five years.

The New Zealand Herald revealed today that Ashley Peacock has been kept in effectively solitary confinement in Porirua for the past five years, allowed only one and a half hours outside each day.

“The Minister of Health has specific powers* to direct the Health Board to act and this is the sort of extreme case that requires the Minister to do so,” Green Party Health spokesperson Kevin Hague said.

The National Intellectual Disability Care Agency, the Human Rights Commission and the Ombudsman have all investigated and say that Ashley has to come out.

“The CCDHB has had a clear pathway to reintegrate Ashley into the community since March, starting with appointing a Project Manager for him. Yet Ashley remains in a situation that you could only really describe as imprisonment at this point because the DHB hasn’t shown any commitment or urgency, despite having the funds to take action,” Mr Hague said.

Mr Peacock’s parents have said the hospital had told them that funding constraints, and the fallout from a series of high profile deaths of mental health patients were among factors that had lead the hospital to keep their son locked up.

“New Zealand has made an international commitment to end the use of seclusion, as it constitutes a form of torture. It should be a temporary last resort used for purely therapeutic reasons, not a five-year sentence used for punishment to save money, or to cope with inadequate staffing levels,” Mr Hague said.

“People shouldn’t suffer the kind of treatment that Ashley Peacock has been subjected to because the National Government refuses to fund mental health services properly.

“Ashley Peacock’s treatment highlights why we need an urgent and nationwide inquiry, along the lines of the Mason inquiries into mental health services, and an immediate reinstatement of the Mental Health Commission to provide independent oversight,” Mr Hague said.

*Under section 32 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000, the Minister may give directions to specific DHBs.

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