Mentally unfit man still in cell

A Wanaka man found to be mentally unfit to plead to charges in the Queenstown District Court a week ago is still ''languishing'' in a remand cell in Invercargill Prison, despite recommendations he be sent to Dunedin's Wakari psychiatric hospital.

On April 12, Peter John Barratt (72) was charged with resisting, assaulting and threatening to kill Senior Constable Sean Hurley, of Wanaka, threatening to kill his children, and also threatening to kill Constable Peter Reed.

On June 4, Judge Christina Cook found Mr Barratt unfit to plead after receiving reports from a psychiatrist and a psychologist, who considered he should undergo further assessment in a secure unit at Wakari Hospital.

However, Judge Cook noted no bed was available and her only option was to remand him in custody - back to the remand cell at Invercargill Prison where he has spent the last two months.

He is due to appear in the Invercargill Court again today.

His lawyer, Nic Soper, told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he was still waiting to hear that a bed had become available.

He described the situation as ''most unsatisfactory'' given Mr Barratt ''hasn't been convicted of anything and in fact has been assessed as not being mentally capable of even entering a plea.

''He should be in a facility where he is receiving appropriate care and treatment but because of the inability of the DHB to be able to allocate space for him, he is in custody in prison.''

Mr Soper considered a remand cell had been the appropriate place for Mr Barratt up until last week's court appearance.

''But once the assessment was made and the court determined he was unfit to plead, then he should have been immediately transferred to a care facility because he is a person that has not been convicted of any offence.''

Mr Soper said the inability of the DHB to provide a bed left Mr Barratt effectively in ''no man's land''.

Although Mr Barratt was receiving some care from the mental health team and the psychiatric nurse at Invercargill Prison, his family was ''not surprisingly concerned'' Mr Barratt ''still languishes in prison rather than being transferred to an appropriate care facility,'' Mr Soper said.

The DHB did not respond to ODT questions about the availability of a bed for Mr Barratt.

In 2012 the DHB consulted the public with its ''Raise Hope'' mental health and addiction draft strategic plan.

The plan identified ''gaps'' in various mental health services but found there were ''no significant gaps'' in services for offenders in the adult criminal justice system and ''alleged offenders with mental illness and addictions''.


This seems like a Human Rights issue, with a bit of 'habeus corpus'. Unless the man is sectioned to prison, I dont see how he can be held there. If he is not responsible for his actions, he is not guilty of committing a crime, although my knowledge of criminal law is not great. [Abridged]


This isnt anywhere near good enough. This man needs help and medical care .. Awful, dollar-driven, public servant  lazy situation. Of course there are beds available, it's just that no facility wants the added cost or bother. So much for family values - is this what we have become? [Abridged]