Miriam Merten Lismore Hospital Death

Latest News:  
Miriam Merton Mental Hospital Death Inquiry Media Release 9th November 2017
Miriam Merten health department inquiry
Submission to the Legislative Assembly Public Accounts Committee - Management and Delivery of Health Care in NSW

Miriam Merten Overview

Justice Action submitted a report to the NSW Health Department Inquiry after the death of Miriam Merten, mother of two and a mental health patient from Lismore Base Hospital. Miriam died on 3rd June 2014 from injuries sustained during her time in seclusion. The horrific nature of Miriam’s treatment was evidenced with shocking CCTV footage of her final hours, exposing the lack of care from the NSW Health Staff at Lismore Base Hospital along with their abject failure to intervene in her untimely death.

Ms Merten died in 2014 from a brain injury after she fell more than 20 times whilst in the care of the Mental Health Unit of Lismore Base Hospital. The coronial inquest into Ms Merten’s death found that Ms Merton died from a "traumatic brain injury caused by numerous falls and the self-beating of her head on various surfaces, the latter not done with the intention of taking her life". Disturbing CCTV footage of the neglected, blood and faeces splattered, Ms Merten wondering the corridors of the Lismore facility on the night of her death have emerged, and be viewed in this article.


parliament stairs group photo

 parliamentary inquiry 2

Kerry O'Malley media release 171017


Health Department Rejected

Media Release October 17, 2017

Mental health consumers have won another battle against the use of forced medication. After years of being subject to Community Treatment Orders (CTO), 71 year old Kerry O’Malley today won agreement from the Mental Health Review Tribunal to reject the CTO against her. A forced injection is the antithesis of health care disgracing all who say nothing.

This afternoon Kerry said “There were a number of prayer requests that went up from my friends but I still needed all of you to get Victory. I am very grateful”. Meet her here.

Kerry is one of fifteen thousand people in NSW currently having medication enforced under a CTO, being brutalised and degraded by the Health system, using medication that is uncertain and statistically worse than social support. By stigmatising, monitoring and distressing people under such orders, their use deters the mentally ill from receiving voluntary help and bypasses their engagement.

Kerry told the Tribunal that she’d told the hospital that their medication made her feel sick, depressed, anxious, tired, mentally foggy and unable to concentrate, but the hospital disagreed and said that she could get out of bed, was leaving her house, and it was good for her. Kerry said that the order degraded her and she preferred to choose her own doctor. She had family, friends and health support she trusted and wanted the Health Department to leave her alone as it made her fearful. The Tribunal agreed.

Kerry told the Tribunal that she wanted to speak openly about her experiences, and said ‘I’m not afraid to use my own name. I have had to deal with this for a long time’. She applied and got permission under s.162 for permission to use her own name. She is part of the Justice Action Team presenting to the Inquiry on Health on October 31 at 11.15am”.

Kerry O'Malley - Forced Medication and Community Treatment Orders

The degrading treatment imposed on this gracious 71 year old woman Kerry O’Malley highlights all that is wrong with the mental health system. Over the last 47 years she has been arrested, abandoned to draconian control in a locked hospital and her rights to individual autonomy dismissed. She has been subjected many times to Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) and forcibly medicated with severe physical and social side effects. Only her sister Margaret and her church have stood beside her. Psychiatrist Dr Yola Lucire defended her against the forced medication despite the weight of the industry norms. Legal aid by the Mental Health Advocacy Service is thoroughly discredited as part of the system.

Kerry is only one of fifteen thousand people in NSW currently having medication enforced under a CTO, being brutalised and degraded by the health system.  Many of those people may well have issues and trauma to resolve but are victims further victimised by the system - not dangerous to themselves or others. For themforced injection is the health system's standard expression of "care". Meet Kerry here. She will present to the NSW Inquiry on Health on October 31 11.15am.

Victory at the Mental Health Review Tribunal 17/10/17
Kerry O’Malley will not be placed on another CTO. This is an important win not just for Kerry, but also for other mental health patients who feel they are silenced under the control of the mental health system. Kerry will move forward with continual support of her friends, her family and the Justice Action team. Media release. Media release download

Tribunal denies CTO reversal 22/10/17

Kerry O'Malley is back on the CTO despite never having demonstrated threatening behaviour towards herself or any other member of the public. see the full report of the August 22 Mental Health Review Tribunal Hearing for more information on the arguments adopted by Justice Action and the appalling decision of the Mental health Tribunal. 

Triumph at the Tribunal 27/05/15

Kerry O’Malley is a 71-year old woman who has been subjected multiple times to Community Treatment Orders (CTOs). In May 2015, Kerry, working with Justice Action, was successful in having the CTO removed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal. See the full report of the triumph at the Tribunal. See full report hereDownload media release here

Michael Riley







 Appalling Outcome Report: Rehospitalised - 16th November 2016




Michael Riley is a warm, bright, gentle giant in his late 30’s. He is currently employed at a union and is the loving father of a four-and-a-half year old daughter who starts school this year. While Michael lives, works and is socially engaged in the community, he is subject to a Community Treatment Order (CTO) which has been consistently renewed for 14 years. Michael does not agree with nor does he consent to this order. His diagnosis is one of Schizoaffective Disorder - a diagnosis he rejects.



Michael does not have a criminal record and has no history of violent behaviour. His only contact with the police has been sparked by his CTO on the isolated occasions on which he is essentially arrested on the grounds that he is a danger to his own reputation. At times, these arrests have been carried out with such force that Michael has required hospital treatment. Despite his gentle nature, Michael’s experience at the hands of the police and mental health authorities has resulted in him feeling as though he is being treated like a criminal. This is a common experience for people with mental illness and an ongoing concern for Justice Action.  


Read more about Michael's case here. Watch his interview with Justice Action.




Community Treatment Orders

Forced Medication

Right to Identification



About Saeed

“Free Saeed Dezfouli” Campaign



“I am a patient with patients’ rights, an inmate with inmates’ rights and a human being with human rights.

These rights have been fundamentally and severely violated by unprofessional and sadistic state government employees in the positions of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and prison officers. They are required to go by the law, regulations, policy and procedures, codes of conduct practice and ethics, but they don’t”

Saeed Dezfouli



The closed system of the NSW Health Department’s mental hospitals is getting exposure through the window of patient Saeed Dezfouli. It shows systemic abuse of dependant individuals clocked as care and highlights the problem with government bureaucracies dealing with challenging people at the individual level, lacking compassion, concern or rational behaviour.



Saeed Dezfouli was born in Iran in 1958 and came to Australia in 1983. Upon arriving in Australia as a refugee, he earned a degree in Bachelor of Arts and majored in political sciences. In 1986 he became a citizen of Australia and was working as a court interpreter for the Ethnic Affairs Commission NSW. Throughout 2001, he became fearful of his life and safety and stated that he had been receiving death threats. He felt that he was constantly under surveillance. He said that he warned the authorities by sending them letters about his concerns for 5 months prior to the offence.

He was accused of setting fire to the foyer of the Community Relations Commission (formerly the Ethnic Affairs Commission) at Ashfield by using a container of petrol. Three female employees were trapped by the flames and were taken to hospital in an unconscious state. One of them, a 53-year-old woman from Bonnyrigg, subsequently died from her injuries. Most importantly there were other mitigating factors. Unfortunately on the day of the fire, the emergency fire exit door was locked and the rubbish in the foyer hadn’t been collected, leaving it to obstruct the path of the employees escaping the smoke and flames. He was taken to Burwood police station where he was insulted, assaulted and unlawfully interrogated by the NSW Police. He was subsequently charged with several offences.


In contrast to his treatment, Saeed presents no threat to the community. He needs support as an Iranian refugee affected by a heart condition and stress. Saeed is evidently remorseful for his actions and has regrets for what he has done.


However, the main issue that needs to be raised is the irresponsibility demonstrated by the authorities by ignoring his claims that subsequently triggered Saeed’s unlawful actions. Saeed did everything within his power to communicate his concerns to authorities, yet these threats were not taken seriously and Saeed followed through by setting fire to a government office. Although he clearly outlined his intentions, the threats were not deemed serious enough to warrant an investigation, highlight the failure of response mechanisms by government officials.


This tragedy would never have happened in the first place if proper health and police intervention frameworks were enacted.


Detention in Long Bay Forensic Hospital

Mr. Dezfouli has been in detention since 19 January 2002. On 13 February 2002 Saeed was transferred to Long Bay Prison Hospital and in 2004 he was found not guilty due to mental illness. Mr. Dezfouli is not a violent or aggressive man, as has been stated many times by his treating doctors and nurses. He is highly intelligent, articulate and politically aware. He presents no threat to the community and had not intended the harm that was caused more than 15 years ago.


If Saeed was tried through the criminal justice system he would have already served his time and been released. However, because he was tried through the mental health system, he has served a period of over 15 years to date and is now being held indefinitely, despite ongoing reviews with the Mental Health Review Tribunal.


Mr. Dezfouli, up until the middle of July 2011, was held in the highest security area at Long Bay Forensic Hospital, which he shared with 7 other patients who are classified in the  “lowest functioning group.” He was, and is continued to be denied access to ground leave and has restricted access to a small courtyard. Saeed, along with fellow patients, are denied any access to education facilities, despite education as one of the aims of the Rehabilitation wing in which he is currently held.


Since his imprisonment, Saeed has been held indefinitely and subjected to continuous abuse, including:

-   Numerous periods kept naked in a solitary confinement cell for days to “break him down”.

-   Broken ribs and severe bruising and pain from forced medication.

-   Periods of incarceration in cells without basic hygiene, such as four days without toilet paper.

-   In January 2005, he was brutally assaulted by DCS officers resulting in a permanent back injury.

-   Hospitalization due to injuries inflicted by DCS officers.

Mr. Dezfouli now suffers from a heart condition, ulcers and diabetes as a result of the side effects of anti-psychotic medications combined with daily exposure to an oppressive and suppressive regimen.


Defending his rights


Saeed is in a unique position. He has watched the system from inside for 15 years and continues to point out its hypocrisy, whilst Justice Health (an arm of the Health Department) tries to prevent his outcry and force him into submission with the rest of the patients. He is a gentle person – staff agree he is not violent, yet every two weeks he is restrained and forcibly injected with a powerful sedative, which leaves him feeling severely agitated and facing negative side effects. He is refused a choice of psychiatrist, education and exercise and is not permitted new visitors. Justice Action became his Primary Carer when there was no one else.


His mistreatment is a result of Saeed protesting and fighting for his rights and the rights of his fellow inmates. Over the years he has made a number of complaints of assaults by staff, and sustained a hunger strike for his rights for 52 days. He was involved in a campaign to allow patients more time out of their cells, in which at the time they were spending a good part of the day locked inside their cells.  He was also involved in the signing of a petition that stated:

26 of the 30 patients at Long Bay Prison Hospital in the ward have complained to the Health Care Complaints Commission and the NSW Ombudsman about notes on their psychiatric conditions that are fabricated and saying the nurses and doctors rarely bother to talk to them. Several prisoners had gone on hunger strikes. Many patients have been overdosed and medicated against their will.”


Although Saeed forwarded the petition to the NSW Ombudsman, it was decided that the complaint would not be pursued and as such, the issues were not addressed. Attached to the petition was Saeed’s complaint about the issues regarding the medical treatment of patients inside Long Bay Forensic Hospital, some of the issues included:

- That the nurses do not provide adequate nursing care to patients;

- That the nurses fabricated notes and call them nurses’ notes;

- That the psychiatrists show up for a couple of days a week for a couple of hours a day, read the nurses’ notes and then write prescriptions without seeing patients;

- That some patients do not speak to a doctor for months;

- That many nurses do not speak to many patients for months.


We advise no further action occurred nor were any charges laid.


Justice Action believes that Mr. Dezfouli is suffering because his numerous efforts to alleviate his living conditions have to date been futile. Justice Health has absolute power as patients have no finite sentences and are totally dependant on their treating psychiatrist. The principles of patients’ rights under section 68 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) ('MHA')[1] do not apply in practice. In this system of “care”, no one cares.


Saeed appealed to the Supreme Court against the Mental Health Review Tribunal’s refusal to order changes to his treatment. The Tribunal and the Attorney General tried to block this first real appeal against its new powers to make orders, refusing to supply its decision, until an audio record proved Saeed’s entitlement. It appears that the Tribunal sees its role as supporting Justice Health and not making a separate judgment. The lack of complaint from those around Saeed demonstrates widespread abuse and how compromised individuals participating in the health system are.


Challenge to Tribunal’s Ban on Saeed’s Name

An interpretation of the MHA by Justice Health is currently preventing Saeed Dezfouli from using his own name in his fight to gain freedom. Section 162 of the MHA[2] states that:


(1) A person must not, except with the consent of the Tribunal, publish or broadcast the

name of any person:

(a)  to whom a matter before the Tribunal relates, or


Since this case involves significant matters affecting other patients, powers of Justice Health and that of the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT), Saeed wants to ensure it is conducted openly in the public, which allows him to express himself in a manner that is open and honest. Justice Action agrees with him entirely as the secrecy has allowed abuses to occur in the past without adequate accountability.


Saeed requests that section 162 of the MHA be waived and that he should be allowed to use his name in the campaign for his release. Furthermore, he intends to highlight the unfairness of his treatment and that of others by the Health Department.


He argues that section 162 is intended to protect him from exploitation and exposure by the media, but instead it is being used to protect the Health Department from being held accountable for the treatment of citizens entitled to care and assistance. It has been used to prevent the exposure of a system that allows the abuse of the human rights of nameless, faceless, dehumanised mental health consumers.


In short, he wants his right to have his own name returned to him, and for the provision intended for his benefit, and not used to allow an abuse of power against him as a human being. We believe Saeed has the right to have his name distinguished from others and recognised as a unique individual.



While Mr. Dezfouli did commit an act that violated the criminal justice system, it does not mean he should be subjected to abuse by the mental health system. The fourteen years he has spent in custody is well above the sentencing trends for the offences he committed. However, unlike the average prisoner, Saeed faces no concrete release date and is faced with the possibility that he may spend the rest of his life within the forensic prison system as the Mental Health Review Tribunal refuses to provide him with the answers that he is entitled to. Just because Saeed Dezfouli has a mental illness, as diagnosed by the Health Department, does not mean that his rights, as a consumer of the criminal justice system and as a member of the Australian community, are no longer valid.


Read More:

Media Releases and Resources

Campaign Documents

[1] http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/mha2007128/s68.html

[2] http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/viewtop/inforce/act+8+2007+FIRST+0+N/


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