Abuse led to life in prison, inquiry told

Lake Alice Hospital Photo: Wikipedia
Lake Alice Hospital Photo: Wikipedia
A stint in an Invercargill borstal was the beginning of 40 years in prison for a man physically abused at the notorious Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital.

The 60-year-old man, speaking under the pseudonym Tom, gave evidence before the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care yesterday about his treatment at the Lake Alice child and adolescent unit near Marton, and other facilities, as a child in the 1970s.

He described at the Auckland hearing how his abuse led to him spending 40 years in prison.

He ended up in state care after being physically abused by his father, and sexually abused by a man he caddied for at a nearby golf club.

The abuse caused him to act out, and at the age of 12 he was taken into state care.

He arrived at Epuni Boys’ Home, where he was physically and sexually abused.

He tried to run away more than once but was always caught and returned.

From there he was placed in Whatman Home, where he was again physically and sexually abused, before going into a family home. He was also physically abused there.

By the age of 14, he had arrived at Lake Alice.

"Lake Alice had to be the worst of all the places I was put in by the government," he said.

"The kids who were there were just ordinary kids but what happened to us wasn’t."

He described twice being given painful paraldehyde injections as punishments, and instances of being given electroconvulsive therapy.

"I can’t really explain the pain. It was how you would expect to feel if you were getting electrocuted on the head.

"When I woke up I was in bed and had p... myself and lost control of my bowels. I felt like a cabbage or a zombie for three to five days after."

Children were also ordered to clean up the rooms of elderly mental patients who had died, he said.

After several months, his uncle asked for him to be taken out of Lake Alice.

Life after Lake Alice continued to decline for Tom.

He attended school for a while, but found he did not fit in.

Before long he was living on the streets and in trouble with the police. That led to him being sent to a borstal in Invercargill.

He has spent 40 years on and off in prison, and is considered institutionalised.

But he wanted to stay out of the system and have a quality life, he said.

"I want the system of locking kids up and institutionalising them when they have become troubled to be gone forever.

"Kids in lock-up become adults in prisons. They know no better."

He described being in poor health, suffering from PTSD, and having no savings and no job.

His abuse and incarceration have affected his family, too. He has a son and a daughter, who barely knew him growing up.

He has no contact with his brother, and his mother has died. He does not know if his father is still alive.

He has received $26,000 as part of a claim for Lake Alice survivors, but he was disappointed with that amount.

"I think the Crown deliberately put roadblocks up everywhere and tried to wear us down so we would give up trying to get compensation and justice. I don’t think this amount justified what was done to me."

He believed his life had been destroyed by how his care was handled, and the government owed him compensation and support.

"There have got to be lots of protections to stop children and adolescents being put into psychiatric institutions."






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