Incident at Graylands Hospital.

The family of a mentally ill woman who had an assault charge dropped yesterday have described her treatment as disgusting, saying the ordeal was the catalyst for a severe deterioration in her health and hospitalisation in Graylands.

Defence lawyer Terry Dobson also described Antoinette Sims' treatment by hospital staff as appalling, saying the case had exposed a problem in mental health laws which meant his client had been unlawfully detained and assaulted during an incident at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital on May 17 last year.

Ms Sims was accused of kicking a nurse after she was physically detained by security staff but an assault charge was dropped at the start of a scheduled trial in the Perth Magistrate's Court.

Ms Sims, 43, attended the hospital because of concerns about her medication for depression and diabetes.

When seen by a psychiatrist in a secure ward, Ms Sims decided to leave and was sitting outside the emergency department when apprehended by security guards.

Mr Dobson said the police prosecuting branch had decided to discontinue the case because under the Mental Health Act, hospital staff had no legal power to detain Ms Sims in the circumstances.

He said under existing laws, only police could detain a person who had been referred to a psychiatrist and needed to be transported to an approved hospital for assessment.

Mr Dobson and Ms Sims' family also criticised police for laying the charge, saying it had not been in the public interest.

Her mother Kathy and sister Samantha said Ms Sims had been working as an aged carer at the time but after being charged she became severely depressed and had a major psychotic episode.

Samantha Sims said the approach at the hospital had been heavy-handed and lacked compassion and empathy

Judicial services assistant commissioner Lawrence Panaia said arresting officers had acted on information given to them at the time and WA Police was satisfied the correct process was taken in deciding not to continue the prosecution.

Mr Panaia said police decided not to continue the case and Mr Dobson had been advised on August 21.

A North Metropolitan Health Service spokeswoman said patient confidentiality did not allow her to comment on Ms Sims' case.

She said patients could be lawfully detained by hospital staff under provisions of the mental health laws and when a patient's welfare was at risk, it was incumbent on staff to stop them from absconding.

News break - September 5

The West Australian

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