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Australia Ann Marie Smith's death won't be investigated by disability royal commission

14:37  20 may  2020
14:37  20 may  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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A second care provider confirms Ann Marie Smith ' s carer worked shifts for their organisation, as the NDIS says it is investigating the case. Earlier today, SA Premier Steven Marshall announced a task force would be established, chaired by disability advocate David Caudrey, to investigate gaps in the

Ann Marie Smith died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital on April 6. (Supplied: SA Police). Ann Marie Smith died in hospital on April 6. Police have launched a manslaughter investigation into A National Disability Insurance Scheme spokesperson said the organisation was also investigating the case

The royal commission into violence against people with disability will not immediately launch an investigation into the death and horrific neglect of Adelaide woman Ann Marie Smith.

Commission chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said in a statement that commissioners were "appalled" by the circumstances of Ms Smith's death but it was already subject to multiple investigations, including one by South Australia Police.

Ms Smith died on April 6 of severe septic shock, multi-organ failure, severe pressure sores, malnutrition and issues connected with her cerebral palsy after being stuck in a cane chair 24 hours a day for more than a year in her Kensington Park home.

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a person posing for the camera: Ann Marie Smith died in her Kensington Park home early last month. (Supplied: SA Police) © Provided by ABC Health Ann Marie Smith died in her Kensington Park home early last month. (Supplied: SA Police)

Mr Sackville said the deeply distressing case raised important policy questions that the commission was considering — but that it would be inappropriate for it to launch its own inquiry into Ms Smith's death.

"It is inappropriate for the royal commission to initiate an immediate inquiry into events where that might prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation or a possible future prosecution," he said in a statement.

"For that reason, the royal commission will not at this time commence an inquiry into the specific circumstances surrounding Ms Smith's death.

"It is, however, open to the royal commission to undertake such an inquiry at a later stage and it will follow the progress of the other investigations."

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Oakden whistleblower concerned by 'parallels'

One of the whistleblowers to expose elder abuse at the infamous Oakden aged care home, Stewart Johnston, said he was highly concerned by Ms Smith's case.

He said he and a group of like-minded advocates had spoken to SA Premier Steven Marshall about it this morning.

"The parallels between Oakden and this case are very similar — no oversight, silent suffering and horrific treatment of somebody most vulnerable," he said.

"A couple of the Oakden families — some of the elderly ones — have made contact with me in the last few days absolutely distraught."

Mr Marshall on Monday announced a taskforce to investigate gaps in the disability care system.

On Tuesday, the National Disability Insurance Scheme Commission said it had issued a notice to Integrity Care SA — which had been providing disability care for Ms Smith — requiring the organisation to commission an independent professional to conduct physical welfare checks on each of its clients.

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Integrity Care SA said it had sacked Ms Smith's carer due to "serious and wilful misconduct".

"We trusted our carer and believe that we have been completely misled by her," the organisation said in a statement on Sunday.

A right to live in safety

Mr Smith said people with a disability have the right to live independently in the community in safety.

He said the commission would hold a public hearing on the experiences of violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation of people with disability in accommodation, including private homes, "once it is possible to do so".

"The royal commission is also investigating what must be done to improve accountability, including through safeguarding mechanisms, appropriate monitoring and oversight practices, and will be seeking community input on this topic in the coming months," he said.

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