UN involved in Manawatu abuse investigation

The United Nations committee on torture is considering a Lake Alice survivor's complaint about abuses he experienced. 

As a teenager, Paul Zentveld was repeatedly given electric shock therapy at the Lake Alice psychiatric hospital in the 1970s. 

His complaint is believed to be the first accepted by the UN's committee on torture against New Zealand. Mr Zentveld was 13 when he first received electric shock treatment without anaesthetic .

"It went from the head to the arm to the knees and testicles," he says. "The worst pain I ever had." 

It was pain he would experience numerous times as punishment at Lake Alice hospital's child and adolescent unit.

The reckoning for the abuses at Lake Alice has dragged on for decades. Helen Clark's Government apologised and paid millions to Mr Zentveld and 182 other survivors in the early 2000s. 

"What it signals is that the Government wants to see justice done by those child and adolescent patients at Lake Alice." 

But Mr Zentveld says justice hasn't been done because no one was held accountable - including Dr Selywn Leeks, the lead psychiatrist at Lake Alice's adolescent unit. Police declined to prosecute him in 2009. 

Law professor Paul Roth says the UN committee on torture could make non-binding determinations on whether New Zealand adequately investigated what happened at Lake Alice. 

"If the complainant can jump all the hurdles for admissibility, they probably have a pretty good argument that the New Zealand Government has never fully investigated the facts."

Any outcomes could be years away, and government lawyers say they have not been formally notified of Mr Zentveld's complaint. 

Mr Zentveld says he wants to keep fighting for those who no longer can. 

"A friend of mine at the time, we were only kids, I found out years later he committed suicide. He was sick of waiting for something to happen. He hadn't even got paid out." 

He says he'll stick it out "until I die" - or until justice is served.