John Richard Corkran had pleaded not guilty of ill-treating adolescents at Lake Alice psychiatric hospital. (File photo)
All criminal charges have been stopped against former Lake Alice psychiatric hospital nurse John (Dempsey) Corkran, who was accused of injecting adolescent patients with a drug as punishment.
Corkran, 91, of Marton, had not been present for the start of the hearing at the High Court in Wellington this week concerning allegations dating from 1974 to 1977. Evidence and submissions heard in court were suppressed.
On Tuesday Justice Andru Isac ended the charges laid in December 2021.
“The defendant’s application for a permanent stay of the proceedings is granted,” the judge wrote. His reasons were to follow.
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* Lake Alice: After two failed police investigations, will a third be any better?
Corkran had pleaded not guilty and his trial had been due to take place in August but his lawyers Robert Lithgow, KC, and Anja Jeremich, had asked for the case to be stopped on several grounds.
Over seven podcast episodes, journalist Aaron Smale talks to survivors of Lake Alice – like Leoni McInroe – as well as former staff, and searches for the psychiatrist who oversaw the experimental therapies, Dr Selwyn Leeks. (Published November 2021)
Corkran faced eight charges alleging he ill-treated adolescents, or caused or permitted them to be ill-treated, using injections of paraldehyde as punishment. Paraldehyde’s uses included as an anti-convulsant and sedative.
Lake Alice lead psychiatrist Dr Selwyn Leeks was not charged, despite police finding enough evidence to lay criminal charges against him.
In an email to survivors in 2021, police said Leeks wouldn’t be formally charged because his ill health and dementia made him unfit to stand trial.
Leeks died in January 2022. He had been living in Australia.
Leeks was in charge of the adolescent unit for about six years in the 1970s and survivors had been agitating for decades for him to be charged, particularly for using electric shocks as punishment. It was also alleged young people suffered sexual abuse at the hands of adult patients and staff.
Various inquiries and investigations have taken place. A complaint over events at Lake Alice had reached the United Nations committee against torture which found allegations had not been properly investigated.
The most recent investigation led to the charging of Corkran.
At the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in State Care in 2021 police apologised to survivors for failings including losing 15 of the 35 complaints from victims.
One of the people named in the charges against Corkran says he had nothing bad to say about him or his brother, who he also knew.
The man, whose name was suppressed, said he wanted to wish Corkran well. “In my opinion, I don’t remember him injecting me.”
His grievance was against Leeks and now that he had gone, it was against the police. “I can’t fight a ghost,” he said.
“This is not finished for me and it won’t be until I get a clear and present apology from the police.”
The man said his hospital file was noted “Why is he here?” He said he was a voluntary patient at Lake Alice because he had to be separated from his mother because they clashed.
Lake Alice, in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, closed more than 20 years ago.