HomeBreaking News‘Her death could have been prevented’: Annie’s carer jailed for appalling neglect

‘Her death could have been prevented’: Annie’s carer jailed for appalling neglect

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On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled Rosa Maria Maione eligible for parole in five years – after which she will likely be deported – for the manslaughter of Annie Smith.In an hour-long sentencing, Justice Anne Bampton said persons with disabilities and workers in that space “no doubt shudder in fear” at the thought of Ms Smith’s horrifying final days. After the hearing – held in a wheelchair-inaccessible courtroom as no others were available – those same people cried and embraced.Advocate and former politician Kelly Vincent said she had prepared herself “to be disappointed” by Maione’s sentence, but was still overcome by it.“Six years is an absolute insult and a slap in the face not only to (Ms Smith’s) memory but to everyone who ever lived with the fear that they or someone they love might end up in that situation,” she said.“Six years is a pretty weak sentence, I’ve been in parliament longer than that, it goes by pretty quickly … I don’t think it sends a serious enough message (to the community).“There are some cases where we just need to make sure that someone can never be in contact with people who are going to be vulnerable, and we haven’t done justice in this case.”Maione, 70, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter over the April 2020 death of Ms Smith, 54 in her Kensington Park home.Ms Smith was left in degrading circumstances and without nourishing food for most of a year, while her belongings went missing and loans were taken out in her name.Last week, Maione apologised for her crime while her lawyer suggested several others – including his client’s employer and Ms Smith herself – also bore responsibility.In sentencing, Justice Bampton outlined what little was known about Ms Smith’s “isolated” life and medical history prior to her death.Scattered expert reports, recollections of friends and ambulance call-outs between 1987 and 2018 charted her physical deterioration as a result of cerebral palsy.They also highlighted Ms Smith’s strong will and undiminished cognitive functions, as well as her refusal to see doctors or dentists and her fear of being moved to a nursing home.They described her as “domineering and demanding”, preferring to shower only a few times a week and sleep upright in her cane chair rather than be lifted to a bed.Justice Bampton said that, at Ms Smith’s request, Maione – an employee of Integrity Care – became her sole carer.Glenn Smith and his family attended the Supreme Court on Monday hoping for answers to the questions that have plagued them since April 2020.Maione was, however, “not capable” of doing the job because she was herself disabled due to a work accident and, by WorkCover ruling, not permitted to lift anything heavier than 10kg.A lack of face-to-face contact with NDIS, meanwhile, meant Maione’s solo role was approved despite experts agreeing Ms Smith needed 24-hour care from multiple workers.By the time Ms Smith died, her toenails had not been cut in six months, she had no bottom teeth and the pressure sore on her left hip was “the worst” an expert had seen “in his career”.There was no nourishing food in the house and an expert said Ms Smith’s diet was so abnormal that “one does not require a formal qualification to recognise it as abnormal”.An 85cm by 55cm stain on the carpet directly beneath Ms Smith’s chair – which was itself decomposing – had “seeped” into the concrete foundation of the house.“It’s clear Ms Smith’s care was compromised, and that neglect was a risk, from the time you became her sole support worker,” Justice Bampton told Maione.“Your neglect of her care became criminal negligence after October 2019, until your triple-0 call on April 5, 2020.“You had no capacity of undertaking many of the activities required of you.“It would have been practically impossible for one worker to lift such a profoundly disabled person on a regular basis with a degree of safety.“And it would have been impossible for you, a then 68-year-old with a body/mass index of 41, arthritis and a previous shoulder injury (to do so).”Justice Bampton said the lack of oversight by Integrity Care – which is under investigation – and the NDIS in no way excused Maione’s offending.Nor did any consideration of Ms Smith’s personal autonomy, given proper medical intervention may have led to discussion, negotiation and more healthy outcomes for her.“You became lazy, you failed to fulfil your duties, you did not seek external assistance,” she said.“Every person (in the disability space) no doubt shudders with fear when they hear about the utter lack of care and human dignity afforded to Ms Smith in the last few months of her life.“The tragedy is, if you had recognised your limitations, her death could have been prevented.”She said she would have jailed Maione for 7 ½ years if not for her guilty plea, public acceptance of responsibility and time already served on home detention bail.She sentenced Maione – who sat in the dock with her eyes tightly closed during the hearing – to six years and nine months’ jail, with a five-year, three-month non-parole period.Outside court, Ms Smith’s brother Steve said his family needed time to “digest” the sentencing.“Is it a fair sentence, that she’s taken someone’s life? To us no, it’s not, because really she should sit in a cell and rot,” he said.“Hopefully when she does get out of jail, she’ll end up back in Italy and alone, just like my sister was.“She shouldn’t have been shown any leniency, she didn’t show my sister any leniency … my sister and I were estranged but she didn’t deserve that, no one deserves that.“You wouldn’t do that to a dog … for her to do that to another human being, that shows the calibre of the lady.”He said Integrity Care had “a huge role in this” and those involved should “all be held accountable”.“NDIS, all the way down to Maione, are responsible for (Ms Smith’s) death,” he said.Advocate and lawyer Natalie Wade outside court after the sentencing of Rosa Maria Maione for the manslaughter of Annie Smith.Ms Vincent said Ms Smith’s death was “the result of failing at every level of the system”.“They (all) knew – Rosa Maione knew, Integrity Care knew, WorkCover knew — she was not fit to perform that job in the first place,” she said.“She killed Anne Marie Smith because she chose to.“I understand that (Ms Smith) had autonomy, that it needed to be respected, but I’ve had support workers who – off the top of my head, twice – called an ambulance for me when I was probably objecting to it.“At the very least they understood their job, and their moral responsibility as a human being, is to keep me, to keep us, alive.“The least they can do is keep us alive … Rosa Maione couldn’t even do that.”She said she was “not confident” increased scrutiny of the sector had any effect “because absolutely nothing has changed”.“That’s why (we) live in fear, every day, because apparently we have to wait for somebody to waste away for us to start thinking about changing the system and to give people a voice to speak out before this happens,” she said.“Is it going to take another Rosa Maione? That’s my fear.”Lawyer and advocate Natalie Wade agreed there had not been enough “structural and systematic change” since Ms Smith’s death.However, she said the sentencing was “an important step” to show the community that inadequate care of persons with a disability would result in prosecution.“It is absolutely clear there is a lot of work to be done that we must do today – not tomorrow, not next year – to make sure this does not happen ever again,” she said.“Any perception that people with disabilities have created their own demise are severely misplaced and absolutely not appropriate.“It is absolutely not appropriate to assume that a person with a disability has chosen a path that led them to their death.”

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