Family of Canberra wife Bronte Haskins calls on ACT coroner to discover several people failed her in the lead up to her suicide

The family of Canberra woman Brontë Haskins has asked the ACT coroner to make negative findings about several people involved in her case before and after her suicide in 2020.

Ms Haskins, 23, died in hospital after several days on a ventilator.

Her death came while she was on bail after a stint in prison for drunk driving.

Ms. Haskins had suffered from both substance abuse and mental illness, something her mother said was not taken seriously enough by the authorities.

Leading up to her death, she stayed at her mother’s house while she was out on bail.

An inquest into Ms. Haskins’ suicide learned that her mother called the police and mental health services when she became delusional, believing the unit she was staying in was a gas chamber.

Several issues have been raised in the case before the ACT Coroner’s Court, including the family’s allegation that a mental health nurse did not give the case the required priority and did not respond to a phone call from Ms Haskins’ mother, Jane.

Attorney Sam Tierney, representing Ms Haskins’ family, referred to the staged triage system — with Category A being the most serious and Category G requiring more information — when criticizing the way the case was handled by psychiatric nurse Karina Boyd.

A young woman relaxes in a hammock while hugging a large smiling dog.
The inquest learned that Brontë Haskins’ case had not been handled properly.(Delivered)

“Had Ms Boyd not erroneously classified Brontë as Category G, Brontë would likely have been personally assessed by a trained mental health psychiatrist within 72 hours and certainly prior to her death,” Mr Tierney said.

Counsel who assisted coroner Andrew Muller also focused on how the case was being handled.

“Brontë should have been rated as category C or D, resulting in urgent follow-up,” said Mr Muller.

“What is material is that, given the information available, Brontë was misjudged for triage purposes.”

Mr Muller recommended a review of the triage system.

But in its comments, the ACT defended Ms. Boyd’s decision, saying she hadn’t been able to talk to Ms. Haskins and that her only contact was with her mother.

“She had been told the AFP had been called and she assumed the police would contact her if they thought Brontë needed a risk assessment or mental health service,” the territory’s submissions said.

Court hears CCTV footage missing minutes before attempted killing

A young woman smiles at the camera as she hugs a large black dog.
Ms Haskins’ family has called for greater transparency in passing confidential details after the death of a mental health user to Coroner’s Court.(Delivered)

Another important point was the fact that the police returned a CCTV recorder to Brett French, an associate of Mrs. Haskins, in whose house she had attempted to commit suicide.

The court heard that approximately 45 minutes of footage that may have shed light on the events leading up to her death has been removed

Court documents revealed that Mr French admitted to showing some of the CCTV footage to another man.

Mr Tierney told the court that the family wanted an adverse finding against Mr French for his “insensitive” treatment of Ms Haskins on the day of her death.

Mr Tierney also identified the behavior of the police investigating the death as a problem.

“A proper examination and analysis of the CCTV recorder may have revealed further and important information to the coroner to aid in the process of dealing with Brontë’s death,” he said.

He has called for a recommendation that will send a message to the AFP on the handling of coronal exposures.

The inquest also looked at the management of Ms Haskins’ case and whether further detention could have prevented her death.

Mr Muller said there was evidence that better communication about her could have helped.

“Of course, if Brontë had been detained, the outcome could have been different,” Müller said.

“But there was no good reason she could be held.”

Other recommendations requested by Ms. Haskins’ family include increased transparency in passing confidential details to the coroner’s court following the death of a mental health user, recording mental health calls, audits of the triage system and better information to be passed on to AFP officers called up for incidents.

Coroner James Stewart said he would take the time to report his findings.

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