Police have obtained statements of ex-staff of the former Lake Alice psychiatric hospital which a former patient hopes will re-invigorate the investigation of criminal complaints of historic child abuse.

Crown lawyers took statements from the former staff of the now-closed hospital near Wanganui after a damning inquiry and before the Government started paying compensation to former patients in 2001.

But the statements have not been available to the police for their investigation into child abuse and torture complaints, because of lawyers' client-secrecy rules.

Detective Superintendent Malcolm Burgess, of the Police Commissioner's Office, said yesterday that Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson had waived the legal privilege applying to six statements.

The Government's compensation payments and apologies to former patients of the hospital's child and adolescent unit, which closed in 1978, were based on the findings of retired High Court judge Sir Rodney Gallen.

His inquiry revealed allegations - most of which he accepted were true - of electric-shock therapy being used to punish children, youngsters being locked away with insane adult patients, sexual abuse and injections of paraldehyde, a sedative-hypnotic drug.

More than 30 complaints from former patients were subsequently sent to the police.

Former Lake Alice patient Paul Zentveld, who has been lobbying for the statements to be given to the police, said yesterday a government lawyer who had seen them had indicated that in the hands of the police they would inevitably lead to charges.

Mr Burgess said he had not yet read the statements so did not know "how helpful" they might be.