Why hasn't this man been charged with assault?

(Potentially triggering)

A man who worked in disabled care, Andrew Lambert, has been reinstated in his job by an employment tribunal, after he had been sacked for “inappropriate behaviour” towards two intellectually disabled women in his care. [link to Sydney Morning Herald story - may be triggering]

To the great good credit of the organisation which employs him, the NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Homecare, he hasn’t actually been allowed to go back on the job, but he’s now collecting his full salary.

Lambert’s behaviour was nasty. He kissed the young women, held them in “full-frontal embrace”, and then lied to the department when it investigated the matter. There were more serious allegations involving sexual touching, but they weren’t pursued by the department. The department obviously felt that the kissing and embracing was enough to justify dismissing him. But the Government and Related Employees Tribunal directed that he be reinstated, despite New South Wales’ highest court saying that his dismissal was justified.

Lambert’s excuse – he was depressed, and suffering from prostate cancer, and he had a falling out with a colleague.

Well, depression can be severe and debilitating, but surely that’s a factor to be taken into account when someone is sentenced for assault. Or it would be, if this man had been charged with assault. But I can find no record of any assault charges laid against him. So what’s with that then? It doesn’t count because his victims have a disability?

Appallingly, people with disabilities are much more vulnerable to abuse than people without disabilities [link]. That should make it all the more important to pursue assault charges against abusers, including Andrew Lambert.

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11 responses

  1. the tribunal said he would keep his job as he had given 19 years of unblemished service…

    The usual “but he’s a good person”, a “pillar of the community”, and of a “long unblemished record” defence. So called good people with unblemished records assault and sexually abuse, and then they’re bad people with blemished records.

    And in this case, that his record is clean is just as likely because inappropriate behaviour simply hadn’t been noticed until now.

    It essentially means that if you’re a 19 year old from the ‘wrong’ part of the community, you feel the law, if you’re a 55 year old man from the right part, you get special consideration.

    It’s sick.

  2. Because male ‘pillars’ of the fucking ‘community’ assault vulnerable women and children all the fucking time – and get cookies for it. I was reading about this case, but hadn’t been able to bring myself to blog about it. Thanks.

    Why is it up to the Department whether they pursue allegations of sexual assault of vulnerable women? Surely this is a job for the appropriate law enforcement unit?

  3. This hits home for me. My non-verbal, profoundly disabled niece will be utterly defenceless from this kind of predator, once her mum is too old to look after her (and of course, before that, because of respite care and such.)

    There is also a non-verbal, profoundly disabled nephew, who is a different story because he is ambulant and very strong. But that doesn’t necessarily preclude some kind of abuse.

  4. I worked for DADHC a few years ago – a frustrating and dysfunctional place. However, agencies dealing with health & social issues need much more funding – to attract better staff and to install better systems. And there will no doubt be some insane regulation that is forcing the department to keep on paying this cretin. No-one in DADHC will be happy about this situation – they are mostly decent people. And vulnerable people also include our senior citizens, don’t forget them. And from experience, proving abuse is not always possible.

  5. Why is it up to the Department whether they pursue allegations of sexual assault of vulnerable women? Surely this is a job for the appropriate law enforcement unit?

    I’m asking the same thing. Has nobody laid a complaint to the police?

    He won’t be able to assault disabled patients if he’s in jail.

  6. I’m tempted to go all law nerd here but I’ve tried to keep it short instead. (If anyone wants the more detailed version, let me know and I’ll draft up a post.)

    In summary, though:

    (1) As Lauredhel says, bringing charges is not a decision for his employer, even though it is a government department. The police generally won’t pursue offences like these without a complaint. It’s partly an evidentiary thing. Partly.

    In other words, the lack of charge may be that the women involved are not willing to make complaints. If they have made that decision, there are clearly a huge number of factors which may have impacted on that, some of which are probably grossly unfair, but most of them probably have little or nothing to do with Lambert’s employer.

    (2) The Court of Appeal did NOT say “the Department was totally right to sack Lambert”. All the CA could do was look at whether the Tribunal had made a legal error – it couldn’t consider the merits of the case. The CA did find a legal error, which meant that the case went back to the Tribunal for it to have another go, which is what has now happened. The Department may be able to appeal again to the CA.

    Honestly, the system makes sense, really it does… [seriously: there are reasons, and they are rational. Unfortunately, it does mean that some cases seem a bit unfair.]

    *bites tongue to prevent more law-nerdery escaping*

  7. The law-nerdery is very welcome, thank you. I can see the process reasons for the decision, but I think the Department of Ageing, Disability and Homecare has made exactly the right decision to keep him away from any further opportunity to abuse vulnerable people in his care.

    1. In terms of the merits of this case (as they have been reported in the newspaper and in the Court of Appeal decision): I completely agree!

      Vibenna: don’t make me quote Humpty Dumpty at you! ;) (I suppose it’s kind of the opposite of what HD was saying – but a very Carrollian thing nonetheless)

  8. I wonder if that should be law-nerdlery?

  9. So in the case of my non-verbal (and non-literate) relatives, they’re pretty much stuffed unless some brave colleague of a hypothetical assault-er goes against his/her interests and blows the whistle? Not exactly something you can count on, is it?

    1. Helen, yes, unfortunately, that’s exactly right. And that’s assuming that the assault/s is/are witnessed, which would be relatively unusual in itself.

      And that is completely crap and unfair. It’s one of the reasons why people who are institutionalised are so at risk of assault – because the people who are in a position to assault them are aware that they’re in a position to do so with relatively little in the way of ramifications.

      (The article doesn’t say, but from the amount of detail about the incidents, I’m guessing that the complainants in the Lambert case *may* be verbal, or at least able to communicate with a reasonable amount of detail.)

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