SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Lack of mental health support for war veteran in jail

On three tours of Afghanistan, Christopher James Finn saw death, destruction and human suffering.

Diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, the 35-year-old former soldier requires specialist mental health treatment.

However Finn is unlikely to receive it in a Queensland prison in the foreseeable future.

After a distinguished career, Finn did not get all the mental health help he needed and he struggled upon leaving the Australian Army.

His marriage broke down. He self-medicated with drugs.

Finn is now at a high security prison following a 14-month crime spree.

He sleeps with his head near a toilet in his cell due to overcrowding at Woodford Correctional Centre and joined a gang for protection.

He pleaded guilty to a total of 38 charges in Brisbane Supreme Court following a drug-fuelled spree that ended when he was found in possession of a loaded revolver in August 2022.

Justice Peter Applegarth ordered Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) provide a pre-sentence report after Finn found it difficult to access specialised treatment in prison.

Upon receiving the report, Justice Applegarth said Finn did not meet the criteria for QCS' Psychological Services Unit and therefore could not access it.

"In the absence of an acute mental health episode ...(Finn is) unlikely to receive the specialised psychological treatment you require from it," Justice Applegarth said in his judgment.

"In any event, there is no suggestion that prison mental health services can provide the kind of specialised therapy that is required to treat your complex PTSD.

"One would have thought that if they could, they would have been providing it to you by now."

The Commonwealth Department of Veterans' Affairs does not fund psychological treatment at Woodford.

"It seems that the current policy or attitude taken is that DVA does not fund mental health support to veterans at Woodford because there are mental health services at that centre but you do not qualify for them at this time," Justice Applegarth said.

QCS and DVA met in February to discuss delivering services to veterans in custody but there was no indication when this might occur, he said.

"Hopefully, the bureaucratic wheels will move quickly so that you and others in your predicament can receive the DVA-funded psychological treatment you require in custody," Justice Applegarth said.

"Your treatment should not have to await a lengthy process or the outcome of a Commonwealth Royal Commission."

Finn has tried to join a resilience program at the jail but has been on a waiting list for months.

In the meantime, Justice Applegarth said Finn could request a transfer to another prison that would be more convenient for his treating psychologist to visit.

Otherwise Finn will need to organise another provider.

"It is not apparent that such a provider is available to do so and neither the DVA nor QCS have arranged for you to receive that kind of specialised treatment whilst in custody these many months," Justice Applegarth said.

Finn was sentenced to four years in prison.

He will be eligible for parole in January 2024.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Open Arms 1800 011 046