State of denial: How police child abuse inquiries ran aground

In part two of a series on Crown Law withholding evidence from police Aaron Smale asks: how did the government and its lawyers behave when they knew the state was guilty of serious crimes against children?

Under oath in front of a Royal Commission the Crown’s top lawyer had nowhere to go. Solicitor General Una Jagose had to admit what had been clear for nearly 50 years – that what happened to children in the Lake Alice psychiatric hospital in the 1970s was criminal.

It was a conclusion that was impossible to escape. As Jagose admitted in convoluted legalese, it was written and recorded by the state’s own employees in its own documents. The perpetrators had recorded their own crimes in documents held by the state.

In her evidence Jagose stated: “The record itself showed that Dr Leeks and other staff were using ECT [electroconvulsive therapy] and other forms of things that are treatment as behavioural modification and/or punishment for those purposes and not for treatment.”

Speaking of the litigation that started in the 1990s – which included Leoni McInroe, who was the first to file a civil case – Jagose acknowledged that the Crown knew from its own files that Dr Leeks’ methods were unacceptable as medical treatment.

“Dr Leeks, was using treatment methods to punish and attempt to modify behaviour in a way that the Crown then, and still, thought was unacceptable, an unacceptable way to treat those children, and didn’t put any of them to proof over that because the proof was right there in the file, in the very systems that the hospital and Dr Leeks ran,” she said.

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