Recommendations by a psychiatrist: Child said to be at risk of harm.

Although the decision relates only to approval of a settlement and the claim was not a medical claim, the matter of Hopkins ( by her tutor the New South Wales Trustee and Guardian) v State of New South Wales [2017] NSWSC 1733 is of interest for its background facts, which concerned in part a recommendation by a psychiatrist about a child who was thought to be at risk of harm in a foster care setting.

The claimant, who was a ward of the State, was sent to a psychiatrist as a result of ‘risk of harm’ reports. At [8] – [9] the approvals judge explained:

By 2005, the matters contained in a risk of harm report were such as to lead the defendant to arrange for the plaintiff to be assessed by a psychiatrist. Notwithstanding these matters, the defendant returned the plaintiff to the custody of Ruth and Roger Hope. As a result of the defendant’s referral, the plaintiff was assessed by a psychiatrist, Associate Professor Quadrio, in 2005. It was the plaintiff’s case that, had the opinion of Associate Professor Quadrio and her recommendations been taken into account, as it is alleged they should have been, the plaintiff would have been removed from the custody of Ruth and Roger Hope in about September 2005.

In late 2005, subsequent to Associate Professor Quadrio’s assessment, the evidence adduced by the plaintiff establishes that Mr Hope began sexually abusing the plaintiff. This sexual abuse continued for the next four years and had, on the plaintiff’s case, a very significant detrimental effect on her and caused her to suffer chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. It was her case that the substance abuse from which she later suffered was a result of that sexual abuse. The plaintiff relied on expert evidence to the effect that the offences she committed which led to her incarceration were a direct and natural result of the sexual abuse which she sustained as a young girl, in circumstances where she was entitled to the protection of the State.

The settlement, without admission of liability,  was approved.


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