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Australia Carer slams 'absurd' arrest of man with dementia

12:50  17 october  2019
12:50  17 october  2019 Source:   9news.com.au

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"It's absolutely absurd ," Van's carer , Stephen Bennett, told A Current Affair. "While this might be what we consider maybe a low-level crime … there has been significant cases in the past where people with dementia have conducted very serious violent offences, and we arrest and charge in those

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For Van Tran, making sense of daily life is hard enough.

Dementia is eroding his memory and his ability to comprehend the simplest things.

But police believe he is a menace, alleging he called them more than 10 thousand times in 16 months.

"It's absolutely absurd," Van's carer, Stephen Bennett, told A Current Affair.

"He's the most non-violent, peaceful person I have ever met."

a man standing in front of a fence: Van Tran has been charged after allegedly tying up police resources.© A Current Affair Van Tran has been charged after allegedly tying up police resources.

Stephen has cared for Van for more than 30 years.

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He's struggling to accept why police knocked on their front door to arrest the 60-year-old.

"When they took him off in the police van, I was really fretting like a parent," Stephen explained, his eyes welling with tears.

"I think any mentally disabled person seeing something like this would be traumatised by the experience."

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Van's carer Stephen Bennett said he was baffled by the decision to charge Van.© A Current Affair Van's carer Stephen Bennett said he was baffled by the decision to charge Van.

It's alleged Van made more than 2500 calls to police at Surry Hills, 3500 to Cabramatta, and 1200 to Broadway, and 4000 to the police assistance line.

In one day, police allegedly recorded 503 calls from Van's phone.

Detective Superintendent Jason Weinstein from NSW Police said he backed his officers' decision to charge Van with using a carriage service to menace.

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"The allegation is that some of those calls will last 30 seconds or some can go into several minutes, which is, in essence, tying up police resources - tying up our telephone switches - which means people who may have real and bona fide emergencies or need help from the police actually can't get through," Detective Superintendent Weinstein explained.

Stephen said Van was raised in an Indonesian refugee camp.

a man wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: Detective Superintendent Jason Weinstein backed the officers' decision.© A Current Affair Detective Superintendent Jason Weinstein backed the officers' decision.

He said growing up malnourished deprived Van of Vitamin-B1, causing him to develop a form of dementia that's left him with only 20 per cent short-term memory.

"When you've got this sort of dementia, even the neurologist can't even say what is going on with the brain – they just do some strange things and it's not something you can really understand," Stephen revealed.

He said Van did not understand what a court was, had no idea what to expect when he appears there next month, and probably won't remember it.

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"To him, it would be some surreal experience that he can't quite understand."

If Van is convicted, he could face up to 12 months in jail.

Stephen said he could have fixed the problem if police had told him as soon as Van's nuisance calls allegedly began in August last year.

a close up of a man: Van was raised in an Indonesian refugee camp.© A Current Affair Van was raised in an Indonesian refugee camp.

"The amount of resources they've probably ended up spending on it was far in excess of just making a simple fix at the beginning," he said.

Detective Superintendent Weinstein conceded the case was "a hard matter".

"I understand the public may see it as police being a bit over zealous or being uncaring. We certainly don't go out and randomly arrest people with dementia," he explained.

"While this might be what we consider maybe a low-level crime … there has been significant cases in the past where people with dementia have conducted very serious violent offences, and we arrest and charge in those mattes as well."

He said police had a clear message for the community.

"NSW Police will not tolerate people who call and tie up our services where it is not warranted or not required," he said.

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