High Court dismisses Joanne Darcy case

The High Court today dismissed a special leave application on behalf of Joanne Darcy, who was detained at a state-run facility called Kanangra for over six years.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre represented Ms Darcy, who has a moderate intellectual disability. 

In 1996, Ms Darcy was convicted of a minor criminal offence. She was 19 years old at the time, and she was ordered to attend Kanangra, on the NSW mid-north coast, for psychological assessment.

Ms Darcy was subsequently detained at Kanangra for six and a half years, against her will and against the express wishes of the Office of the Public Guardian. 

Acting on behalf of Ms Darcy, PIAC lodged a claim of false imprisonment against the State of NSW. The matter was heard first by the District Court, then the NSW Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal accepted that Ms Darcy had been detained at Kanangra, but believed the Office of the Public Guardian had tacitly consented to her detention.

Before the High Court today, Dr Chris Birch SC (pictured, left, with Barrister Kellie Edwards and PIAC Principal Solicitor, Alexis Goodstone) said there had been no express determination by the Public Guardian regarding Ms Darcy’s detention. He argued that tacit consent could not be interpreted as a determination.

The High Court, however, declined to overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision.

‘Today’s decision is a disappointment,’ said PIAC’s Alexis Goodstone.

‘Joanne Darcy’s case highlights a real problem in the law, which is that people with disability can be treated in this way without legal redress,’ Ms Goodstone said. 

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