United Nations finds New Zealand breached Convention against Torture in Lake Alice abuse allegations
In its judgement, the Committee expressed concern authorities made insufficient efforts to establish what happened to children at Lake Alice.
The United Nations has found New Zealand breached the Convention against Torture by failing to properly investigate abuse at Lake Alice Hospital in the 1970s. Newshub Nation spoke to five men who claimed psychiatrist Selwyn Leeks electrocuted their genitals as a punishment while at the Manawatu hospital. Leeks has never faced charges, which prompted victim Paul Zentveld to go to the UN.
Extended cut: UN to investigate New Zealand’s ‘national shame’.
Glimmer of hope for Lake Alice survivors. Zentveld said he was diagnosed with a behavioural disorder by Leeks in 1974, who then tortured him. “They had you sitting in the chair or lying on the bed – nurses holding you down. You had no choice.”
Zentveld, who was helped with his UN complaint by the Patient Rights Group called Citizens Commission on Human Rights, calls the UN’s decision a “victory” for all survivors.
Repeated attempts to contact Leeks, who now lives in Australia, have been unsuccessful, but he’s always denied any wrongdoing. Zentveld and 194 former patients received a Government apology and compensation in the 2000s, but police decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Leeks. But evidence is building, as other former patients have come forward with similar allegations. “He applied shock treatment to my genitals. Left with permanent marks on the underside of my penis,” Marty Brandt said.
“The genitals was his favourite spot. It was just straight pain,” another victim Charlie Symes said. A third victim Malcolm Richards said the electrocution appliance sparked and he received a burn on the end of his penis. Zentveld said no matter what Government officials say, “torture on the testicles is pretty serious”. The decision by police to not prosecute Leeks has now been criticised by the UN Committee Against Torture. In its judgement, the Committee expressed concern that authorities made insufficient efforts to establish what happened to children like Zentveld at Lake Alice.
As a result, New Zealand violated its obligations to properly investigate his claims of torture and had endorsed actions leading to impunity for Leeks. The Government and police are still considering the findings, but detectives have already re-opened their investigation into Zentveld’s case. Meanwhile, the Royal Commission into State Abuse says it will examine police and the Government’s response to Zentveld. The UN has urged a prompt investigation into Zentveld’s allegations and prosecutions where appropriate.