A Tasmanian coroner has recommended sweeping reforms to boost the state’s ability to respond to elder abuse.
Delivering her finding into the hypothermia death of a 77-year-old woman in a shipping container north of Hobart, coroner Olivia McTaggart called for the Government to create a more robust system.
Janet Mackozdi was already in poor physical and mental health when she died in the container while in the care of her daughter and son-in-law at their property at Mount Lloyd, in the middle of winter in 2010.
They received wholly suspended sentences of two years each, and watched today’s findings from an unknown location via video-link.
Ms McTaggart found the couple had rejected outside offers of medical help as Ms Mackozdi’s health deteriorated over an extended period of time, including isolating her from her GP, refusing offers of a place in a nursing home and other services, and even told the bank not to inquire into her finances.
Instead, the coroner found they exploited Ms Mackozdi’s estate, spending three quarters of her money in a way that avoided scrutiny or detection, including the sale of her unit.
Ms McTaggart told the couple, she rejected their evidence that they’d been spending their victim’s money as she would have wanted them to.
“Ms Anglin systematically disengaged her mother from outside support and assistance,” she said.
“Their refusal to engage leads me to the conclusion their wish was to avoid scrutiny of outside services.”
Ms McTaggart said Ms Mackozdi’s “already low” weight dropped by about a third while she was in the care of her daughter and her partner and she was “reliant” solely on them to make decisions on her behalf.
The court heard Ms Mackozdi was in the late stages of dementia and had heart and mental problems, but Ms McTaggart said there was no doubt she would have had plenty of life in front of her if cared for properly.
“This was an uninsulated, drafty shipping container. She was unable to raise the alarm or remove herself,” Ms McTaggart said.
“She would not have died if they’d spent just a small amount of her money on a heated unit. She would have lived for years to come. She did not deserve this.”
The court heard Ms Anglin was a registered nurse and her husband a disability support worker, and they should have known better.
A police van takes Jassy and Michael Anglin into the Hobart police station. (ABC, file photo)
Ms McTaggart concluded by saying “the facts of this sad case” raised many issues around elder abuse, and warned it would become increasingly common as Tasmania’s population continued to age.
She said the state had “a large responsibility” rested to deal with the issue, and called for:
- the Tasmanian Government to undertake a review of legislation to best respond to elder abuse, and, if needed, instigate legislative reform;
- create a steering committee to develop an elder abuse plan;
- set up an independent body with specific responsibility for elder abuse;
- give consideration to a better resourced Office of the Public Guardian; and, more broadly
- give proper resourcing to preventing elder abuse