Saturday, May 24, 2014

Alleged victim's vulnerability challenged by defence

by Sasha Borissenko from The Nelson Mail:
A woman with Down syndrome who says her carer grabbed her head and pushed her face close to an element is not a vulnerable adult, a defence lawyer says.
The carer, Deborah Michelle Waugh, is on trial in the Nelson District Court.
She denies a charge of ill-treating a vulnerable adult.
Defence lawyer Brett Daniell-Smith yesterday argued that Waugh did not mistreat the 25-year-old complainant.
He told the court that although Waugh was a gruff woman, she had a kind and gentle heart.
The Crown alleges that Waugh, 60, ruled the house where the woman lived through fear, creating an unhealthy and unpleasant atmosphere.
Staff working under her raised concerns but a complaint file went missing.
Daniell-Smith and Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber gave their closing statements yesterday.
Waugh worked for Intellectual Disabilities Empowerment in Action (Idea) as a support worker and facilitator at a Collingwood St home for people with intellectual disabilities for six years.
The alleged events in question occurred between October 31 and December 25, 2012, but were only brought to light in April 2013.
The Crown alleges that any complaints were covered up by Waugh's manager and friend.
The alleged incidents only came to light after the manager and friend left the organisation.
In his closing address, Daniell-Smith said that in his view, the complainant did not fit the definition of "vulnerable adult".
He said she was a "pretty high-functioning young woman" who lived independently, worked as an administrator in Stoke, and often went home to see her family in Golden Bay.
The woman spent six years at the Collingwood St home, and compared to previous unsuccessful placements in Vanguard St and Tasman St residences, it was the most successful.
Thanks to Waugh's care and kindness, the woman learned how to be independent and was able to read and write, was able to control her weight, and attended a polytechnic course, Daniell-Smith said.
Waugh was a "gruff, stern, rough diamond" sort of person but clearly had a kind and gentle heart, he said.
He added that the complainant had conceded this under cross-examination.
Daniell-Smith said Waugh got to know the complainant and the other Collingwood St clients, and came to love them.
Webber told the court yesterday that Waugh was more than just a strict mother figure, and her conduct "stinks to high heaven".
He said Waugh's ill-treatment of the complainant was a great betrayal of trust.
The woman suffered physical and mental anguish, and had said she felt like she was going to be murdered.
Waugh calling the complainant a "fat-arse" was particularly terrible, Webber said, because she had previous problems with fluctuating weight and compulsive eating.
He likened the Collingwood St home to a borstal.
Judge Tony Zohrab was to finish summing up the case today, and the jury was then expected to begin its deliberations.

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