The Guardian 28 September, 2005

Justice again denied Chelmsford victim

On September 21 the NSW Supreme Court was due to begin hearing a case of negligence brought by Chelmsford Hospital "deep sleep" victim Barry Hart against plaintiff lawyers Cashman and Partners. But on the day it was due to commence the case was postponed. Mr Hart was informed that a judge was not available to hear the matter.

Cashman and Partnersí lawyers claim the defendant is immune from a negligence based on a High Court decision last March. The upshot of that finding is that Australia is the only common law country where lawyers are immune from negligence suits for their advocacy.

Mr Hart received a jury verdict in the Supreme Court of NSW in 1980 against Chelmsford Hospital for false imprisonment and against narcosis psychiatrist Dr John Herron for false imprisonment, assault and battery and negligence arising out of the treatment known as "deep sleep".

The "treatment" involved putting patients into a comatose state for long periods. This was done by barbiturate poisoning. It caused them major physical and psychological damage. Many died. Others committed suicide in the ensuing years.

Barry Hart is suing Cashman and Partners for almost $2 million for allegedly failing to introduce into a 1995 appeal on inadequate damages fresh medical evidence that was not available at the 1980 trial ó that in addition to brain damage and a severe chronic mental illness, he was also suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A Royal Commission in 1988-90 found that there were 24 unnecessary deaths of "deep sleep" patients in Chelmsford. Twenty patients suicided within months of the treatment.

"For 30 years Iíve been waiting for justice in this case because of the shortcomings of the justice system", Mr Hart told The Guardian. "Iíve been forced to sue my former lawyers for negligence. Now, on the day the trial was due I was informed a judge wasnít available to hear the matter.

"I have been informed now that the matter will be re-listed and wonít be heard until next year. Australia must be condemned for running a third world justice system."

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