Ashley Peacock: Family launch petition for Jonathan Coleman to intervene

Ashley Peacock has spent much of the last five years isolated in a small area of a mental health unit. Picture / Mark Mitchell
Ashley Peacock has spent much of the last five years isolated in a small area of a mental health unit. Picture / Mark Mitchell

The family of an autistic man held in an isolated wing of a mental health unit have launched a petition calling for the minister of health to intervene in his case.

Ashley Peacock, 38, has been kept in a tiny wing of a mental health unit at Porirua for five years, allowed outside for an average of 90 minutes a day.

He sleeps in a 10m-square room with just a mattress and a urine bottle, and when staff order it, can be locked in for long periods - despite repeated warnings from multiple agencies that his condition is deteriorating, and his treatment breaches human rights.

Ashley, who is not a criminal, but has an intellectual disability, a schizophrenic illness and can be violent, is subject to a "watching brief" from the Ombudsman's torture inspectors, who report intermittently on his case.

The Chief Ombudsman recently labelled his living situation "cruel, inhuman or degrading", prompting fresh calls for him to be removed from near-permanent seclusion.

Tonight, as Ashley's case was reported on TVNZ's Sunday, a petition was launched on Change.org.

"This petition is calling for the Minister of Health, Jonathan Coleman, to intervene under Section 32 of the Public Health and Disability Act 2000 in the case of Ashley Peacock," it said.

"We request that Ashley Peacock be urgently relocated to an individualised service in the community with appropriate levels of support, with a clear time frame."

So far the Government has defended Ashley's treatment, saying his case is "complicated" and safety was paramount.

The Capital and Coast District Health Board have previously said he had some of the "highest and most complex needs" and had issues with unpredictable violence.

"This situation is not ideal for the client, other residents or staff," general manager of mental health, addictions and disability services, Nigel Fairley, said. "We are hopeful a solution may soon be found for this client."

The story so far

• Autistic man Ashley Peacock is held in an isolated wing of a mental health unit for five years, allowed just 90 minutes a day outside.

• The Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission consider his case one of prolonged seclusion, a practice subject to a reduction policy in New Zealand.

• His family say they want their son out. A review document agrees, saying he should be transitioned to a community setting as soon as possible.

• Opposition politicians call for Health Minister Jonathan Coleman to intervene. Dr Coleman passes responsibility for the case to Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga, who defends Ashley's treatment.

• The Human Rights Commission announces it will bring an international expert to New Zealand to investigate seclusion practices.

• The Ombudsman releases new investigation into Ashley's treatment, including a statement from Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier that his living situation amounts to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

- NZ Herald

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