Advocates label alleged tasering incident of 95-year-old aged care resident a systemic failure

May 19, 2023
Advocates are urging police to cease the use of tasers on vulnerable individuals. Source: Getty

Disability and senior advocates are demanding NSW police answer for their alleged use of a taser on a 95-year-old woman with dementia inside her aged care facility.

Great-grandmother Clare Nowland is currently in hospital with a suspected fractured skull and “brain bleed” after she was allegedly tasered in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Nowland was allegedly found wandering around Yallambee Lodge wielding a knife.

It is understood that Nowland was tased twice, once in front of her chest and once in her back, which resulted in her falling over and hitting her head.

President of People with Disability Australia Nicole Lee has called the incident “shocking”.

“She’s either one hell of an agile, fit, fast and intimidating 95-year-old woman, or there’s a very poor lack of judgement on those police officers and there really needs to be some accountability on their side of this,” Lee told the ABC.

“This woman, an older woman of 95, she needed somebody to de-escalate the situation with her and to talk to her, and to handle her with compassion and time and not tasers.

“Clearly, there’s not enough training for police around de-escalation tactics for people with psychosis or Alzheimer’s or dementia, for people living with psychosocial disability, autism, or schizophrenia, or anything like that.”

Lee went on to say that the aged-care sector needed to reevaluate how they manage incidents involving elderly residents with dementia, adding that the use of force shouldn’t be an option.

“The fact that they’ve gone to police shows that there’s a failure of protocols somewhere along the way, or a lack of resources or understanding on their behalf on the service’s behalf on how to handle this situation.”

NSW Senior Rights Service spokesperson Margaret Crothers says the lack of sufficient details makes it hard to comment on the case. However, she acknowledged that the outcome of the incident does not align with standard practices in the aged care sector.

“It must raise concerns, no one wants their grandmother or their mother tasered,” Crothers said.

“Everyone is concerned about the use of restraint and certainly the use of force from either police or staff and it’s just something that everyone is mindful of in aged care.”

In response to the incident, NSW Council for Civil Liberties President, Josh Pallas, is urging police to cease using tasers on vulnerable people.

“Police overreach and disproportionality are common themes we see repeating over multiple incidents in NSW,” Pallas said.

“Surely, there must be more appropriate ways to deal with non-compliant people who are suffering.”

NSW Police have confirmed that a critical incident investigation has been launched into the matter, which will be subject to independent review.

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