'Do better': Judge rejects mental health service's bid to discharge 'suffering' man

By Contributor

A court has heard concerns about how Te Whatu Ora Taranaki, previously Taranaki District Health Board, want to discharge a defendant from its mental health inpatient unit . Photo / Tara Shaskey

By Tara Shaskey, Open Justice Multimedia Journalist

A district health board and the criminal court are at loggerheads over the management of a mental health inpatient, with a judge calling for the services to "do better".

Transient Taranaki man Tari Jamie Phillips, in his early 40s, faces a slew of charges, including doing an indecent act and threatening to kill, that he is yet to plead to due to his mental health.

An inpatient order had been made under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act and Phillips was remanded to Te Puna Waiora, a mental health facility run by Te Whatu Ora Taranaki, formerly known as Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB).

But on Thursday, Phillips appeared in New Plymouth District Court for an application to vary his bail address to be heard.

The application was sparked by the facility's plan to discharge Phillips back into the community today.

Defence lawyer Nathan Bourke said the police were concerned about that possibility.

"And I understand completely why."

Judge Lynne Harrison was also concerned.

"I know from sitting on Mr Phillips' cases in the past that he hasn't managed himself well in the community and it's also reflected in his criminal history," she said.

From the dock, Phillips said he was "a suffering person".

Judge Harrison refused to grant the bail variation, stating she needed expert evidence that Phillips was able to be competently managed in the community.

The inpatient order had been made on the basis that mental health was going to be led by the criminal court in relation to the case, she said.

"What this really nicely does is highlights the difficulties we have with these two really important systems [justice and mental health] which fundamentally are in operation to protect the individual, protect the community, and keep everyone safe.

"It's an absolute mess and our two services need to do better"

Judge Harrison adjourned the application, meaning the mental health facility remains Phillips' bail address for now, until a nominal date of September 29.

The impending bail hearing would include the input of his treating clinicians.

Judge Harrison's concerns regarding the management of Phillips' case follows another Taranaki judge's criticism of the same mental health service.

Earlier this year, Judge Tony Greig slammed the service for its "mismanagement" of an inpatient, saying the man was released too early and innocent people were assaulted by him as a result.

Judge Greig said the man had not been properly looked after.

But the TDHB said at the time it was "confident in the care and treatment our services provide".