Glimmer of hope for Lake Alice state abuse survivors

Warning: This story contains distressing content.

From January next year the Royal Commission will begin its inquiry into historical abuse in state care and faith-based institutions.

One of the facilities under its microscope will be the notorious Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit.

Despite 41 former Lake Alice patients making complaints of both physical and sexual abuse, police have never prosecuted anyone.

Between 1972 and 1977 more than 300 children were diagnosed with behavioural problems and sent to the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent unit, all under the care of Dr Selwyn Leeks.

Dozens of patients were subjected to painful procedures like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) without anesthetic.  

Former patient Sharyn Collis was sent to Lake Alice following an horrific trauma.

"'I was gang raped in Napier and my mother got a police report three months after the incident and it had in there that I was a willing partner. That's why I think I ended up out there. Because they thought I was lying."

Ms Collis claims that being sent to Lake Alice only subjected her to further trauma at the hands of Dr Leeks.

"He put me to sleep and he would interfere with me and I'm sure he raped me. I woke up my pants were down and he was at the end of the bed."

Ms Collis says similar events occurred throughout her year at Lake Alice, as well as several courses of ECT.

"Pretty painful. You'd be wet because you had wet yourself and you feel quite confused unsteady on your feet."

A commission of Inquiry and Police Investigation at the time cleared Dr Leeks of any wrongdoing, despite an ombudsman report finding he had used ECT on a boy without his consent.

However the decision not to prosecute was not universally supported within police. Newshub Nation can reveal a former detective from the inquiry, who we have agreed not to name, says he soon realised his desire to pursue a prosecution did not sit well with his bosses.

He says his superiors stopped him communicating with witnesses and he was removed from the case.

He said all he wanted to do was put the case before a jury, but it didn't get past go. He also believes his push for a prosecution affected his career.

Repeated attempts by Newshub Nation to contact Dr Leeks have been unsuccessful but he has always denied any wrongdoing.

Now in what could be the first significant development in Lake Alice in decades, Sharyn will meet with Police next week to discuss laying a formal sexual assault complaint against Dr Leeks.

"I want him brought back. He doesn't deserve compassion, he doesn't deserve iit. He got away with it. He took my past away, he took my future away."

Newshub Nation.

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on TV3, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Newshub Nation is supported by NZ On Air.