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Nothing Fluffy about this story

John Hargreaves 6 March 2017 23

Mr Fluffy Asbestos

Almost every day the papers contain yet another story of a Mr Fluffy issue. But by and large, the issue seems to have died down a tad because people have been bought out and mostly moved on with their lives. Some blocks are still being cleared and some streets in Canberra still like a row of teeth with a tooth missing.

Former Fluffy contaminated blocks have been sold and some building on them has commenced. OK you might think.

Yeah well, I am not so sure about that. In fact, I’m enraged about the slowness of resolution in one case and the apparent inability to achieve a resolution.

Back in April 2015 (yes, nearly two years ago,) I got a call from a friend of mine, Jon Crowley, in a state of distress. He asked for my help.

You might remember Jon. He was the guy who was shot by the police in Chapman, whilst he was having a psychotic episode and waving a bamboo kendo stick around. He was rendered a quadriplegic. He spent ages in hospital in Sydney and ultimately came back to Canberra to be with or near his family. His principal carers were and are his parents, now in their 80s.

He sued for compensation but the ACT Government, the Commonwealth Government and the AFP defended the case and he was awarded $8 million. Those entities appealed and after a lengthy period won their appeal and he was left with nothing but his disability pension and a dependence on the public health system.

To their credit, the ACT Government modified a semi-detached house in Chapman for Jon and he moved in, hoping for an improved life, including interaction with his limited range of friends and his church. How he could believe in the compassion of a God, when he had been through all this, just escapes me.

After some battles with carers provided by the ACT Government, things seemed to have settled down a bit, until that fateful day in April 2015.

He got a letter saying he had to move out because he was in a Mr Fluffy house! It turns out that the ACT Government owned five houses with Mr Fluffy contamination. Incidentally as at mid last year, the other four have been resettled.

They wanted him to move many suburbs away, far from his support network and his social opportunities. I waded in and spoke to a number of people and this was canned. So, thanks to the guys in the bureaucracy who put a stop to this. I thought that some sympathy and empathy were at work.

We talked about a number of alternatives and the people went off looking. Nothing for another year! More agitation was needed and delivered. Appeals to the ministers responsible were met with undertakings of immediate action. Yeah right! Even the agitation of a local ALP branch had not much effect.

A place had been found near his home in Chapman and the department was to buy it and modify it. Jon was ecstatic. Then they were gazumped! Jon is devastated. How can a government be gazumped? Slowness to act is how they can get gazumped!

A number of weeks later Jon is told that they are going to buy a house, knock it down and purpose build a house on the block for him. (smelt like a Mr Fluffy house to me) Jon is getting a bit skeptical about now and who can blame him?

Everything looked good, with plans flowing back and forth. It was hoped he could be in by Christmas. I had my doubts because I couldn’t see the planning approvals and building approvals being done in this time, no matter that the political will of the ministry wanted a speedy resolution.

Well, it is now two months into 2017, nearly two whole years after he first found out he was in a Mr Fluffy property, and still no resolution. The latest explanation is that it takes time to get the demolition approvals from some imaginary friend before the builder can be tasked with demolition and construction. And so, Jon waits.

He waits in a Mr Fluffy property, not being allowed to put nails in the walls for pictures, being scared in case his huge wheelchair bangs into a wall, being required to advise his itinerant carers that they are working in a Mr Fluffy environment (with all that this entails), being promised resolution; all the while being in a distressed state, fearing that he will get a cancer from the asbestos.

This is a guy who was in a mental health state, shot by the police instead of being talked around by the crisis management team from ACT Mental Health, who is now having nightmares in dealing with NDIS issues of reducing entitlements, having massive medical issues requiring acute care in an environment where that medical support is limited and is supported by his parents in their 80s.

Hello! What part of fixing this can’t be fast-tracked. Anyone out there want to change places with Jon, even for a week?

I’m sick of being told how grateful people are for our intercession on behalf of Jon. I’m sick of being patted on the head and told everything will be ok. I’m sick of waiting nearly two years for Jon to have a half decent existence. And imagine how Jon feels!

We let him down. He was a sick member of our community and we shot him. Then we denied him just compensation, even denying him an act of grace payment with no admission of liability. What does he have to do to be treated with kindness? Respect? Compassion? I find it hard to look Jon in the eye and feel that we haven’t let him down because we have.

I know that the bureaucrats have done their jobs so far, but really don’t you think that a resolution for Jon could have been fast-tracked?

PS: since writing this article, I’ve been advised that the Gumment has let a contract to build a home for Jon. Baby steps but movement.  Still months away!


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wildturkeycanoe 7:59 am 11 Mar 17

John Hargreaves said :

Just what law was broken? He was wandering down a street, waving a kendo stick around, talking in tongues and being in a mental health state of distress! What law exactly?

How about trying to break into a stranger’s house by bashing their screen door? Attempted break and enter? What about threatening to “take someone’s head off” and then threatening another person by saying he would “take them out” whilst wielding said bamboo stick, then actually assaulting that innocent person with it? That is assault, which is a crime. I am, also certain that making death threats is not exactly allowed by law. Further, he also used the same stick to assault police officers who were performing their duties to protect the public.
If you do not find these acts in any way illegal, then I think you are as delusional as Crowley himself.
As for the behavior of the police, are they expected to know a person’s state of mind when trying to disarm a serious situation? Anybody who has been threatening the safety of the community needs to be dealt with sternly, regardless of if they are having an “episode” or not. Speaking calmly and in a non-threatening way is not going to have any effect on a person who is motivated to harm others and I doubt there are many cases where such an attacker is acting with a clear mind and fully aware of the consequences of their actions, mentally healthy or not.

John Hargreaves said :

No…. a psychotic episode due to a mental illness, the exact type would breach his privacy but it was not in a drug induced hallucinatory state.

Someone who is off their meds can be in just as delusional state as someone on drugs, if those meds are to control outbursts. So who was responsible for him not taking his medication? Certainly not the health services who were specifically asked not to intervene both the day before and that morning, at request of his parents. It wasn’t the fault of the police that he was in such a state, nor should they have to try and do an on the spot mental health assessment. How can you distinguish this person from a terrorist, who could just as well be covered in strange writing, yelling threats to the public, speaking in foreign languages and threatening police with a weapon? One is having a psychotic break, the other is just making an attack on society, rationally based on their beliefs. You can not expect police to distinguish the motivation for such behavior, they are there to ensure that society is protected. They did what they were trained to do and can not be blamed for the outcome.
I still assert that if the concerns of the health workers were addressed the previous day, the incident may never have happened. But did the health service have the power to enforce admission into the psychiatric services? Were there grounds for this to happen? Probably not at the time. Ultimately it was Mr. Crowley’s actions that caused him to be shot and trying to blame anybody else is a cop-out.

Oh, the excuse of having a stick for swiping at Magpies is a far cry from threatening violence against innocent people who he clearly understood were not magpies.

Acton 7:13 pm 10 Mar 17

John Hargreaves said :

Acton said :

The people I feel most sorry for are his parents. Jonathan Crowley has ruined their lives as well as his own. The people I feel least sorry for are politicians who cynically ignore and distort facts.

Crowley, a large and intimidating man, used violence and intimidation against several members of the public and the police, ignoring repeated warnings to lay down the weapon he had been attacking people with. The facts of the case are set out in detail here:

https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/no-liability-for-police-shooting/

We should feel little sympathy for a perpetrator of a violent crime who sues society seeking damages for his own injuries incurred while resisting efforts by the police to protect the public. And who then demands scarce publically funded accommodation on his own terms. By insisting on accommodation in Chapman, instead of gratefully taking whatever was offered elsewhere, he made resolution and compromise difficult and the pain for his family worse.

Dear Acton. You clearly have not read the transcripts nor do you know Jon personally. You seem to be running the police line. I have read the transcripts, have a copy, and know Jon and the family from before the incident. Jon was a peaceful poet, intent of pursuing a gentle life for everyone he came across. But he had a mental illness which was under control through medication but if the meds were not efficacious or he went off them (as was the case here), he was not in control of his own actions. Even the police agreed to this as did the AFP ,ACT and Commonwealth legal teams. The view you espouse is not only incorrect, it is insulting to the whole of the mental health community.

He was a peaceful poet was he? Pursuing a gentle life was he? Innocently wandering the Chapman streets composing lyrics when set upon by the brutal thuggish police?

Well if you believe that you will also believe this from Crowley himself:
“The truth is i had the bamboo cane for swooping magpies as did other people have a stick or something”

Ha! Well, perhaps the lyrics went something like this:

[[I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er Chapman hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
Of swooping warbling magpie bills.]]

It is of no surprise to me that you “know Jon and the family from before the incident.” Crowley was a long-standing Labor Party member before the shooting.

You say: “You seem to be running the police line.” No, I’m persuaded by the reasons of the ACT Court of Appeal which rejected all findings of negligence. Crowley lost his compensation case after the Court reached a legal decision, dispassionately and without the inherent bias that comes from personal association.

The job of the ACT Public Service is to fairly allocate scarce and valuable public housing resources to many needy people within our community. Members of the Canberra public find it odious when a former politician uses their influence to interfere in that due process to gain favourable and preferential treatment for one of their mates.

chewy14 3:48 pm 10 Mar 17

John Hargreaves said :

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

No… the guy was sick, was shot by the cops, made a quadriplegic and has suffered pain and disability ever since. A bit rich to say he broke the law, which he didn’t, anyway! What kind of hard hearted person are you?

So what you’re saying is that he would have been found not guilty for a number of crimes by a defence of mental illness?

Doesn’t negate the fact that he got shot because of his own actions. Shot by a police officer trying to protect another officer and the public from being violently assaulted.

And that’s what the court found in awarding him no compensation.

John Hargreaves 2:49 pm 10 Mar 17

Just for the record, Jon was known to the Mental Health Crisis Team but the police did not call them to assist. The whole episode took 42 seconds! To suggest that the health system and the police did all they could is just not correct. He was in the grip of an episode! A mental health crisis. He did not hurt anyone by waving the kendo stick around. Sure, he frightened a couple of people who called the police but then it all turned to custard. It was an unfortunate miscalculation of the part of the police and had dire circumstances for Jon. I have the report into the episode and it is horrible reading. It is a shame that it has been suppressed. Were I Julian Assange, I would release it.

John Hargreaves 2:42 pm 10 Mar 17

Acton said :

The people I feel most sorry for are his parents. Jonathan Crowley has ruined their lives as well as his own. The people I feel least sorry for are politicians who cynically ignore and distort facts.

Crowley, a large and intimidating man, used violence and intimidation against several members of the public and the police, ignoring repeated warnings to lay down the weapon he had been attacking people with. The facts of the case are set out in detail here:

https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/no-liability-for-police-shooting/

We should feel little sympathy for a perpetrator of a violent crime who sues society seeking damages for his own injuries incurred while resisting efforts by the police to protect the public. And who then demands scarce publically funded accommodation on his own terms. By insisting on accommodation in Chapman, instead of gratefully taking whatever was offered elsewhere, he made resolution and compromise difficult and the pain for his family worse.

Dear Acton. You clearly have not read the transcripts nor do you know Jon personally. You seem to be running the police line. I have read the transcripts, have a copy, and know Jon and the family from before the incident. Jon was a peaceful poet, intent of pursuing a gentle life for everyone he came across. But he had a mental illness which was under control through medication but if the meds were not efficacious or he went off them (as was the case here), he was not in control of his own actions. Even the police agreed to this as did the AFP ,ACT and Commonwealth legal teams. The view you espouse is not only incorrect, it is insulting to the whole of the mental health community.

John Hargreaves 2:38 pm 10 Mar 17

Masquara said :

bigred said :

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

Not sure how your comment got through moderation. I Suggest you read the whole story about the systemic failure of mental health services to deal with a known client going through a mental health episode. We can be a very cruel town towards anyone not travelling too well. You just callously reminded me that generation selfish is very much out there.

Was the episode drug induced? If so, no sympathy and no quarter. If not, different story.

No…. a psychotic episode due to a mental illness, the exact type would breach his privacy but it was not in a drug induced hallucinatory state.

John Hargreaves 2:36 pm 10 Mar 17

Ten_Inches said :

I suspect because they are facts.

He broke the law. The Police then acted on their assessment of the situation. They don’t just wave their guns about willy nilly, they discharge their firearm for a reason.

Now because of that reason, and the fact that he survived, he is now blaming his predicament on someone else. It’s always someone else’s fault these days hey.

And the OP wants us to feel sorry for him. Not on my shift my suggestive friend.

Just what law was broken? He was wandering down a street, waving a kendo stick around, talking in tongues and being in a mental health state of distress! What law exactly?

John Hargreaves 2:34 pm 10 Mar 17

Masquara said :

The government can be “gazumped” – did you mean “outbid”? – because they are the keepers of ratepayers’ money and need to look after our interests as well as this unfortunate fellow. Chapman is an expensive suburb – surely there is a cheaper suburb adjoining or at least nearby. Of course he should be looked after, but within budget reason.

The government made an offer, it was accepted, then a larger offer made and accepted. gazumped!

John Hargreaves 2:33 pm 10 Mar 17

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

No… the guy was sick, was shot by the cops, made a quadriplegic and has suffered pain and disability ever since. A bit rich to say he broke the law, which he didn’t, anyway! What kind of hard hearted person are you?

JC 4:10 pm 09 Mar 17

chewy14 said :

So your friends have read the entire tender documentation for all the requirements of the demolition removal and remediation and reckon they could do it cheaper?
As for “common knowledge”, I’ll just leave this here:

If builders I bet they are licenced for removal on non-friable asbestos, commonly found in wall board and the like and not hard to remove and dispose of at all.

Mr Fluffy is very much of the friable variety which is a tad more complex and specialised.

chewy14 1:29 pm 09 Mar 17

Mysteryman said :

I have some issues with how the whole Mr Fluffy situation has been handled – in particular the cost of the demolitions being far higher than they should be. I have friends who are in construction and are qualified to remove asbestos, and it’s common knowledge that the government is being taken for a ride with the cost of these demolitions.

I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your friend. I’m not surprised by the difficultly they’ve faced in getting things moving. I’m also not surprised by promise after promise being broken or forgotten about. Things with this government only seem to move quickly when there’s money to be made or when developers are involved. The ‘little people’ like Jon and his family get the raw end of the deal in the ACT.

So your friends have read the entire tender documentation for all the requirements of the demolition removal and remediation and reckon they could do it cheaper?
As for “common knowledge”, I’ll just leave this here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

I think what you really mean is that you have friends who could do the job cheaper by not meeting the client’s requirements and increasing risks to both the public and workers in not doing a thorough and comprehensive job.

It’s not like that has ever been tried with the removal of asbestos in housing in the ACT before…….

tim_c 11:38 am 09 Mar 17

Ten_Inches said :

I suspect because they are facts.

He broke the law. The Police then acted on their assessment of the situation. They don’t just wave their guns about willy nilly, they discharge their firearm for a reason.

Now because of that reason, and the fact that he survived, he is now blaming his predicament on someone else. It’s always someone else’s fault these days hey.

And the OP wants us to feel sorry for him. Not on my shift my suggestive friend.

I tend to agree – not very many people in ACT get shot at by Police, and you have to be an exceptionally rogue case to ‘earn’ such a title. At the end of the day, the Police officers are people who want to go home to their families – if you threaten them, they will naturally take action to ensure their safety, their colleagues’ safety, as well as the safety the people in the community that they are ultimately hired to protect. While it is appropriate they are called to account for such actions, the courts can deliberate for weeks, months or even longer over a potential life/death decision that a Police officer had to make in a split-second.

wildturkeycanoe 10:53 pm 08 Mar 17

I agree with Bigred about this one, sympathy is one emotion I am not wasting on Jon Crowley.
Blaming the health service and police for his injuries is not only wrong, but pursuing it through the judicial system is a wasted expense for the tax payer. Why on earth do criminals [let’s not beat around the bush, what he did was a criminal act] seem to get so much attention and consideration when they try to get compensation for injuries that resulted from their own illegal actions?
The media hasn’t reported the full story, let’s get that out there straight away. If you research the case [search Australian Emergency Law and Jon Crowley] and court documents, it has been shown that both the health service and the police did what they could to protect both the offender, the public and themselves. They tried to intervene, but the decision to put Jon into the care of mental health specialists was overruled by his parents. They didn’t want police involved and by not letting him get the help he needed, they allowed the situation to get out of hand. Crowley not only threatened innocent people with death threats and a weapon, but he actually used it on police officers who were sent to protect the community. They didn’t approach him guns blazing, they tried to subdue him with non-lethal methods first. What were they supposed to do, sing him a lullaby? How are the authorities supposed to determine if a threatening individual is having a psychotic episode or they are running amok with total clarity?
All this finger pointing at the health services is undone by the actions of his carers, who could have prevented the whole thing from happening had they listened to the advice they were given. If they are suggesting that Jon should have been taken into care against both his own wishes and those of his parents, then it opens up a can of worms about what classifies one as a threat to themselves or society and what right doctors have to forcibly institutionalize people.
Now, as to the intertwining of all this with Mr. Fluffy, honestly, why is this particular case any more newsworthy than all the other asbestos riddled homes? Making sensationalist comments such as “not being allowed to put nails in the walls for pictures, being scared in case his huge wheelchair bangs into a wall” does not really have any ground to stand on. For a wheelchair to expose asbestos from a wall cavity would first require the chair to break through the sheet and then sufficiently disturb the air behind it. Unless the chair is equipped with a turbo charged four cylinder engine, I think the chances of that happening are about the same as the chances of getting a run of green lights through Tuggeranong. As for nails in walls, have you not heard of 3M hooks? Nobody uses nails, and in a government funded house he shouldn’t be making holes in the walls anyway.

“We let him down. He was a sick member of our community and we shot him”.
Sorry John, but no. His parents let the community down and he got himself shot. Combining mental health issues with cannabis and weapons surely will lead to something undesirable. Should we have sympathy for every other mentally disturbed person who got high on drugs and went around the streets threatening people? Do we compare this incident to the fellow who deliberately drove his car into oncoming traffic on the Bussell Highway in a psychotic break, eventually killing an innocent bystander? Why not give him $8 million because nobody stopped him from doing what he did? The question is, at what point do you consider somebody doing violent and dangerous behavior a psychotic episode that could have been avoided? How crazy do you have to be before your actions are considered to be out of your own control? If having long term depression and drug issues makes somebody a threat to society, then there are a whole lot of people who should be put into padded rooms for our protection, before they go out bashing up police and then sue the state for neglect.

Mysteryman 2:01 pm 08 Mar 17

I have some issues with how the whole Mr Fluffy situation has been handled – in particular the cost of the demolitions being far higher than they should be. I have friends who are in construction and are qualified to remove asbestos, and it’s common knowledge that the government is being taken for a ride with the cost of these demolitions.

I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your friend. I’m not surprised by the difficultly they’ve faced in getting things moving. I’m also not surprised by promise after promise being broken or forgotten about. Things with this government only seem to move quickly when there’s money to be made or when developers are involved. The ‘little people’ like Jon and his family get the raw end of the deal in the ACT.

Ten_Inches 12:53 pm 08 Mar 17

I suspect because they are facts.

He broke the law. The Police then acted on their assessment of the situation. They don’t just wave their guns about willy nilly, they discharge their firearm for a reason.

Now because of that reason, and the fact that he survived, he is now blaming his predicament on someone else. It’s always someone else’s fault these days hey.

And the OP wants us to feel sorry for him. Not on my shift my suggestive friend.

chewy14 11:26 am 08 Mar 17

bigred said :

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

Not sure how your comment got through moderation. I Suggest you read the whole story about the systemic failure of mental health services to deal with a known client going through a mental health episode. We can be a very cruel town towards anyone not travelling too well. You just callously reminded me that generation selfish is very much out there.

The failure of the mental health services does not negate the event that caused him to be in a wheelchair. John talks about denying him “just” compensation, despite the fact that the legal system found that he did not deserve to be compensated for the event caused by his own actions.

Despite that, the government has been reasonably generous in the provision of housing and services here and are working towards another solution. The risk of living in one of these Fluffy houses for a short period of time is miniscule and he will be housed appropriately in another taxpayer funded residence in due time.

Acton 12:07 am 08 Mar 17

The people I feel most sorry for are his parents. Jonathan Crowley has ruined their lives as well as his own. The people I feel least sorry for are politicians who cynically ignore and distort facts.

Crowley, a large and intimidating man, used violence and intimidation against several members of the public and the police, ignoring repeated warnings to lay down the weapon he had been attacking people with. The facts of the case are set out in detail here:

https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/no-liability-for-police-shooting/

We should feel little sympathy for a perpetrator of a violent crime who sues society seeking damages for his own injuries incurred while resisting efforts by the police to protect the public. And who then demands scarce publically funded accommodation on his own terms. By insisting on accommodation in Chapman, instead of gratefully taking whatever was offered elsewhere, he made resolution and compromise difficult and the pain for his family worse.

Masquara 11:00 pm 07 Mar 17

bigred said :

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

Not sure how your comment got through moderation. I Suggest you read the whole story about the systemic failure of mental health services to deal with a known client going through a mental health episode. We can be a very cruel town towards anyone not travelling too well. You just callously reminded me that generation selfish is very much out there.

Was the episode drug induced? If so, no sympathy and no quarter. If not, different story.

Masquara 11:00 pm 07 Mar 17

The government can be “gazumped” – did you mean “outbid”? – because they are the keepers of ratepayers’ money and need to look after our interests as well as this unfortunate fellow. Chapman is an expensive suburb – surely there is a cheaper suburb adjoining or at least nearby. Of course he should be looked after, but within budget reason.

bigred 8:39 pm 07 Mar 17

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

Not sure how your comment got through moderation. I Suggest you read the whole story about the systemic failure of mental health services to deal with a known client going through a mental health episode. We can be a very cruel town towards anyone not travelling too well. You just callously reminded me that generation selfish is very much out there.

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