Samoa sued for $13 million over prison death
The Samoan government is being sued for $13 million US dollars by the family of a man found dead at Tafa'igata Prison.
The Samoan government is being sued for 13 million US dollars by the family of a man found dead at Tafa'igata Prison.
Mental health patient, Hans Dalton, was found dead inside a gallon water drum at the prison on Boxing Day 2012 and another prisoner was later cleared of his murder.
The lawyer for the Dalton family, Olinda Woodroffe, told Jenny Meyer the case has already been looked into by a Commission of Inquiry and she hoping the legal challenge will bring changes to mental health care in Samoa.
OLINDA WOODROFFE: It's a large sum of money. I think at the time emotions were high; but on the other hand we have to look at what sort of awards have been awarded by courts in this sort of situation. But suffice to say there isn't a situation that is equivalent in Samoa to Hans Dalton's. Taking into account that he was a mental patient and he was also on some drugs that his mother clearly told the officials of the Health Department in Samoa that he shouldn't have given to him. Now further more he should never, in my view, have been taken to prison because he's not a prisoner, he didn't commit a crime. He should have been kept in the hospital under surveillance of those who are qualified to look after people with a mental illness and disturbance caused not though their own fault or wanting to disturb the peace but because of something that is beyond his control.
JENNY MEYER: So want are you hoping might change in the way things are done in Samoa regarding the care of mental health patients as a result of this case?
OW: Well there's two things; for the mental health I am rather hoping that a lesson can be learned by the Samoan government and Samoan health officials to know how to cope with people like Hans Dalton and treat them with respect and help that they deserve. Not put them in jail and subject them to violence like Hans Dalton was. If need be seek advice from the medical professions in New Zealand who have been dealing with that particular person. Now no doubt there may be persons in Samoa who haven't had the privilege of outside doctors; in those circumstances they should actually look at the person's illness and treat the person with respect, dignity and care; rather than, in my eyes, abusing them.
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