Oddly dangerous or dangerously odd

Dr Mike Jordan1, Ms Kate Cuthbertson, Ms Marita O’Connell1

1Tasmanian Forensic Mental Health Service, Hobart, Australia

Since the introduction of dangerous criminal legislation in Tasmania, approximately ten declarations have been made, but only one has been discharged, that of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read.

This presentation will overview the:-

  1. Case of a Tasmanian prisoner held pursuant to dangerous criminal legislation.
  2. Problems with the Tasmanian legislation and how it applied to this case.
  3. Suggestions for reforms and comparisons with interstate legislation.

Jamie McCrossen was 18 years old in 1990 when he was charged with wounding and assault. He had entered an antique store to have a gun valued.  He pointed the gun at the owner, a struggle ensued and the owner sustained an injury to her head.  He pleaded guilty and received an 18 month sentence. He had previously been dealt with in the Children’s Court and Supreme Court for offences of burglary, stealing and aggravated assault. He had a history of childhood trauma, developmental delay, poor peer relationships and a speech impediment. There was no evidence of a psychiatric disorder but an unusual personality style was noted.

Whist in custody, Mr McCrossen wrote a threatening letter to the complainant. He pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to commit the crime of threatening to murder which prompted an application for him to be declared a dangerous criminal. During the proceedings, he wrote a further threatening letter, this time addressed to the judge. He was declared a dangerous criminal in 1991.

Mr McCrossen remains in custody and is severely institutionalised. Clinicians have consistently struggled to refine diagnosis. He has resisted almost all attempts at rehabilitation. He first applied to have the declaration lifted in 2014. The application was rejected in 2016, largely because he refused participate in rehabilitation. He reapplied soon afterwards and this application is currently before the court.


Biography:

Marita O’Connell has been working as a Court Liaison Officer with Forensic Mental Health Services in Hobart, Tasmania since 2002. She holds a Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy and has worked in community mental health, in-patient and forensic settings in Hobart and West London. Court Liaison services in Tasmania interface with both the Magistrates Court and the Supreme Court and provide mental health assessments of defendants, oversee defendants on the Diversion List (Tasmania’s therapeutic jurisprudence list) and provide advice to Judges and Magistrates as requested.

Mike Jordan is a psychiatrist with almost 2 decades experience. Originally from the UK, he completed psychiatry training at Oxford, Cardiff and Auckland – it was at the latter (Mason Clinic) that he started his years in forensic psychiatry and since then has worked in Western Australia and now in Tasmania. He was Clinical Director of the local statewide Forensic Mental Health Service from 2009-2016 and still works in that service, combining it with some private practice. He does sessions on the Tasmanian Mental Health Tribunal and lectures at the University of Tasmania Medical School.

Kate Cuthbertson LLB (Hons), BA, Grad Cert in Legal Practice, GAICD is a lawyer with over 18 years’ experience practising in the areas of Criminal Law and General Litigation. Following 10 years at the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania, she commenced practice as a Barrister in February 2010.  She has considerable experience acting for vulnerable clients. In addition to her work as a Barrister, Kate is a member of the Parole Board, Anti-Discrimination and Mental Health Tribunals, a Criminal Injuries Compensation Commissioner and a Deputy Chairperson of the Racing Appeal Board. She also coordinates the Magistrates Court Practice and Advocacy module for the Tasmanian Legal Practice Course.