The royal commission into violence against people with disability will not immediately launch an investigation into the death and horrific neglect of Adelaide woman Ann Marie Smith.
- The royal commission won’t immediately investigate the death
- SA Police is conducting a criminal investigation
- Premier Steven Marshall announced a taskforce
Commission chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said in a statement that commissioners were “appalled” by the circumstances of Ms Smith’s death but it was already subject to multiple investigations, including one by South Australia Police.
Ms Smith died on April 6 of severe septic shock, multi-organ failure, severe pressure sores, malnutrition and issues connected with her cerebral palsy after being stuck in a cane chair 24 hours a day for more than a year in her Kensington Park home.
Mr Sackville said the deeply distressing case raised important policy questions that the commission was considering — but that it would be inappropriate for it to launch its own inquiry into Ms Smith’s death.
“It is inappropriate for the royal commission to initiate an immediate inquiry into events where that might prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation or a possible future prosecution,” he said in a statement.
“It is, however, open to the royal commission to undertake such an inquiry at a later stage and it will follow the progress of the other investigations.”
Oakden whistleblower concerned by ‘parallels’
One of the whistleblowers to expose elder abuse at the infamous Oakden aged care home, Stewart Johnston, said he was highly concerned by Ms Smith’s case.
He said he and a group of like-minded advocates had spoken to SA Premier Steven Marshall about it this morning.
“The parallels between Oakden and this case are very similar — no oversight, silent suffering and horrific treatment of somebody most vulnerable,” he said.
Mr Marshall on Monday announced a taskforce to investigate gaps in the disability care system.
On Tuesday, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Commission said it had issued a notice to Integrity Care SA — which had been providing disability care for Ms Smith — requiring the organisation to commission an independent professional to conduct physical welfare checks on each of its clients.
Integrity Care SA said it had sacked Ms Smith’s carer due to “serious and wilful misconduct”.
“We trusted our carer and believe that we have been completely misled by her,” the organisation said in a statement on Sunday.
A right to live in safety
Mr Smith said people with a disability have the right to live independently in the community in safety.
He said the commission would hold a public hearing on the experiences of violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation of people with disability in accommodation, including private homes, “once it is possible to do so”.
“The royal commission is also investigating what must be done to improve accountability, including through safeguarding mechanisms, appropriate monitoring and oversight practices, and will be seeking community input on this topic in the coming months,” he said.