The Guardian March 15, 2000


Chelmsford victim turns to UN

by Marcus Browning

It was 27 years ago last month since Barry Hart was detained against his 
will by doctors and staff at the Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney and 
put into a narcotic-induced coma for 10 days: Chelmsford's notorious and 
discredited Deep Sleep Treatment. 

Barry Hart continues his struggle today against a system that has deprived 
him of justice from the time he first began to seek legal redress in 1976.

He is now taking this struggle onto the world stage, having sent a detailed 
100-page indictment of Australia's justice system to the United Nations 
Human Rights Commission in Geneva, outlining his case as a violation of his 
human rights and defining his treatment in Chelmsford as torture.

His submission claims that he has been denied "natural justice", and 
details his long struggle to obtain fair and adequate compensation for the 
abuse and torture he was subjected to in Chelmsford Hospital in 1973.

In his introductory letter to the High Commissioner, Dr Mary Robinson, Mr 
Hart says: "In essence, my complaint is that I have been victimised by the 
Australian justice and political systems. They have flagrantly abused my 
human rights.

"My case exposes the Australian justice system as unfair, extremely biased, 
corrupt, oppressive, self-serving and unaccountable. The government (both 
state and federal) have knowingly allowed this state of affairs to occur 
and as such have become a party to the judicial corruption."

History

Barry Hart had been referred by a general practitioner to psychiatrist Dr 
John Herron in 1972 following botched plastic surgery around his eyes. The 
minor surgery, meant to correct a problem with his eyelids, changed his 
appearance to such an extent that it threatened his livelihood as a 
professional model and actor, causing him some distress and anxiety.

On the afternoon of February 28 he went to Chelmsford Hospital and 
requested to see Herron, whom he hadn't seen for two months. He was asked 
to sign a consent form for shock treatment but refused.

When he decided to leave after waiting an hour, he was given a pill which 
he was told would "settle him down". That is the last thing he remembers 
clearly until some weeks later when he was taken by ambulance to Hornsby 
Public Hospital in a serious condition.

It then took almost seven years for him to get the necessary legal aid and 
find lawyers willing to take on his case.

In 1980, after a drawn out trial, the jury found in Mr Hart's favour 
against Dr Herron for assault, battery and false imprisonment, the latter 
being against both Herron and the hospital.

The judge awarded him $6,000 for the false imprisonment, $36,000 for 
general damages, including past and future loss of earnings, and $18,000 
for assault and battery, which included electrical shock therapy to his 
brain while he was ill with pneumonia.

As a result of his mistreatment in Chelmsford Barry Hart suffered pleurisy, 
double pneumonia, deep vein thrombosis, a pulmonary embolus and anoxic 
brain damage. In 1993 he was diagnosed as suffering from chronic post 
traumatic stress disorder.

He suffers now from flash backs, extreme sensitivity to noise, convulsive 
fits and nightmares.

From 1988 to 1990 a Royal Commission Into Deep Sleep Therapy found that Dr 
Herron had "deliberately lied in Mr Hart's trial" and that there had been 
an attempt by Herron, the hospital receptionist and another person who was 
part-owner of the hospital, to cover up the fact that Mr Hart had not 
signed a consent form.

The Royal Commission also found that 24 people had died as a direct 
consequence of undergoing "deep sleep" and that on at least 18 occasions 
false death certificates were written to hide this fact.

Another 24 patients had committed suicide within 12 months of undergoing 
the "treatment".

Mr Hart's final appeal in the NSW Court of Appeal in 1996 against the poor 
compensation awarded by the judge in the 1980 trial was dismissed with 
costs. 

This effectively ignored prima facie evidence from the 1980 trial 
and the consequent Royal Commission of a conspiracy to pervert the course 
of justice, the fraudulent alteration of medical records on two occasions, 
perjury and the threatening of a nurse who was an eyewitness to the 
conspiracy by the conspirators.

Mr Hart's submission sites 16 breaches of the International Covenant of 
Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a signatory.

Article 7 of the Covenant says: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to 
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No one shall be 
subjected, without his free consent, to medical or scientific experiment."

Article 2.3 (a,b,c) says: "Any person whose rights and freedoms are herein 
recognised as violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that 
the violation has been committed by a person acting in an official 
capacity.

"To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right 
thereto determined by competent judicial administrative or legislative 
authorities, or other competent authority provided for by the legal system 
of the state ...

To ensure that competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when 
granted."

Article 14 of the UN 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, 
Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ratified by Australia in 
1987) states: "Each State party shall ensure that its legal system provides 
that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable 
right to fair, adequate compensation, including the means for as full 
rehabilitation as possible."

Barry Hart says the case is heavily political. He is seen as a dissident by 
the medical hierarchy because he will not give up the fight for justice, a 
struggle that began with an incorrect diagnosis of his anxiety.

"As a cure for this `madness' I was tortured in Chelmsford", he said.

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