A psychiatrist who assessed an Afghan detainee who died after setting himself on fire at WA’s Yongah Hill immigration detention centre maintains he was right not to send the man to a psychiatric facility.
The coroner’s court is conducting an inquest into the level of care and support given to Ali Jaffari, who died in a Perth hospital after being found with burns to 61 per cent of his body in the bathroom of his room at the detention centre.
Police officers who attended the scene told the inquest today they did not believe there was any criminality involved, and that Mr Jaffari had set himself alight.
Refugee advocates said at the time that he had self-harmed before and should have been in a mental health hospital, not a detention centre.
The inquest was told Mr Jaffari arrived by boat as an asylum seeker in October 2010 and was initially detained at Christmas Island. The following year he was granted a protection visa and released into the community.
Ali Jaffari received regular mental health assessments at Yongah Hill detention centre in Northam. (ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)
But in August 2013, he was convicted of six counts of an indecent act with a child and had his protection visa cancelled by then immigration minister Scott Morrison.
He was taken into immigration detention again, and in December 2014 was convicted of a further charge of accessing child pornography material on his laptop in St Kilda Library in 2012.
Jaffari claimed he was hearing voices
In December 2014 he was transferred to the Yongah Hill detention centre, where he received regular mental health assessments.
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In August 2015, he attempted suicide and was assessed in Royal Perth Hospital as being in a state of crisis after losing his protection visa.
He harmed himself again soon after, and told medical staff he could hear voices telling him to kill himself.
But he was discharged from Royal Perth Hospital on September 12, 2015 under a recommendation of constant observation.
Professor Aleksandar Janca, a visiting psychiatrist for International Health and Medical Services, assessed Mr Jaffari at Yongah Hill on September 14 as being a moderate risk of self-harm or suicide, but decided he should remain at the centre rather than be sent to a psychiatric facility.
The following day, Mr Jaffari set himself alight next to the shower of his room in the Eagle compound of the centre.
‘No mental illness behind suicide attempts’
Professor Janca told the court today he was “very surprised” to learn what had happened.
“I was very surprised because I thought he came to the conclusion that his immigration status in Australia had been decided, ” he said.
“I was under the impression he was looking forward to being out of Yongah Hill.”
Professor Janca said Mr Jaffari should not have been in a public mental health ward because he did not have a major mental health condition and was already receiving all the care and support he would have received there.
He thought Mr Jaffari’s previous suicide attempts were “impulsive, demonstrative protests” at the length of his detention, rather than a reflection of ongoing serious psychiatric problems.
“There was no mental illness behind these suicide attempts,” he said.
The inquest continues.