Sunday, 14 April, 2024
HomeMental HealthImprisoning mentally ill Dickason not rehabilitation, say experts

Imprisoning mentally ill Dickason not rehabilitation, say experts

Although Pretoria ex-pat Lauren Dickason is a murderer – found guilty after killing her three daughters in their beds – her mental disease should be considered, and her case is “unique and complicated”, experts have said.

The former doctor had admitted to killing daughters Liané (6) and twins Maya and Karla (2) in September 2021, three weeks after emigrating to New Zealand.

TimesLIVE reports that during the nearly four-week trial, she and her legal team had hoped to persuade the court in Christchurch that she was not guilty of murder due to insanity and infanticide.

Experts said cases like this should be dealt with from a mental health perspective to foster relevant rehabilitation.

Psychologist Nkululeko Mhlongo said imprisoning someone with severe mental health problems was not the appropriate form of rehabilitation.

“The justice system is generally not the right system to assist such people. It’s not equipped. At a general level there should be organisations that work closely with the system to better understand the crime, and after sentencing, they should be the ones to handle the case.

“Unfortunately there aren’t enough organisations like that or activism that deals with mental health related crimes. Dickason’s case has psychotic elements, something that could have been addressed before it reached the criminal system. Had all means been exhausted, we might not have been here,” Mhlongo said.

“Even after they are out, there should be a continuation – not just through a parole officer but a psychological approach.”

Feige Swimmer, co-founder of Mom Squad, a community of women helping each other through postnatal depression (PND), said this was a particularly unique case with many layers.

“Looking at the timeline and history, this is not PPD but definitely a full-on mental breakdown. Some women don’t have access to mental health care and their situation often escalates when it could have been managed early.

“In general, I don’t think an offender like this should be put into a correctional service for everyone, but rather, into one that has an element of psychological rehabilitation… it needs to have a mental health aspect,” she said.

The court heard evidence that Dickason had suffered from mental health issues since her teenage years. After a gruelling fertility journey, including at least 17 rounds of IVF, the loss of a baby early in a pregnancy and her struggles with motherhood, the defence argued she had thought it would be kindest to take the children “to heaven” with her when she committed suicide.

Swimmer added that though Dickason was a murderer, her mental disease should be considered.

“Punishing her like everyone else is unfair …because they were probably not aware of what they were doing. But they should definitely be kept away from society.

“It’s tricky dealing with such cases because some people may believe she doesn’t deserve to be accommodated in any way – but mental health is complicated.”

The prosecution’s case was that while she had been depressed, Dickason had known what she was doing and yet did not contemplate stopping.

It was alleged she struggled to adapt to motherhood and was resentful at how the children got in the way of her relationship with her husband, Graham.


TimesLIVE article – Jailing a mentally ill person is not rehabilitation, say experts after Lauren Dickason verdict (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Dickason guilty of murders as jury rejects post-partum depression defence


Dickason trial churns up difficult parenting issues


Murders, suicide would be a 'happy ending’, believed Dickason






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