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Charges against former Lake Alice staff member ‘better than nothing’ says survivor

It finally feels as though Lake Alice survivors are being listened to after a former staff member was charged, says one former patient.

Selwyn Leeks is a 92-year-old with dementia.

As lead psychiatrist at the Lake Alice child and adolescent unit in the 1970s, he is said to have administered electric shocks and paralysing drugs as punishment for minor crimes during a six-year reign of terror.

But despite police finding evidence to charge him, they say they are unable to because he can’t defend himself in court.

That’s not the case for an 89-year-old former staff member, who has been charged with ill-treatment of a child and is due to appear in Whanganui District Court next week.

In a statement, police said there was evidence to prosecute two other former staff members, including Leeks, but the pair weren’t fit to stand trial.

A former patient of the unit, Paul Zentveld, said the decision to lay charges meant it finally felt as if survivors were listened to.

It’s better than nothing, that’s all I can say. [It’s] better than calling us liars, saying we made it up and were imagining things that never happened at Lake Alice.

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