Court dismisses Darcy appeal

The NSW Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by Joanne Darcy in relation to her claim of false imprisonment.

Ms Darcy (pictured) is 34 years old and has an intellectual disability. In June 1996, a Magistrate ordered that she attend the Kanangra Centre on the mid-north NSW coast for assessment. Ms Darcy was then held at Kanangra, against her will, for over six years. Kanangra is a DOCS-run institution for people with intellectual disabilities.

PIAC has acted on Ms Darcy’s behalf since she lodged her claim for false imprisonment in 2007. The matter was heard first in the District Court in 2010, and then the NSW Court of Appeal in December 2011.

The NSW Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the District Court.

The Court of Appeal found that Ms Darcy was detained at the Kanangra Centre because she couldn’t leave without permission. However, the Court of Appeal held that Ms Darcy’s stay at Kanangra was lawfully justified by the tacit consent of the Public Guardian.

While the Court of Appeal referred to the fact that the Public Guardian had stated in its correspondence with DOCS and other organisations that it “did not consent” to Ms Darcy staying at Kanangra, the Court of Appeal reasoned that the Public Guardian’s conduct amounted to tacit consent, or an “acceptance of the residential status quo” because the Guardian never demanded her release.

The Court of Appeal concluded that in light of this conduct, the Public Guardian’s statements that they “did not consent” were not relevant.

Ms Darcy is considering whether to seek special leave to appeal this decision in the High Court.

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