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Stipe Lozina was recorded by CCTV cameras in November 2019
asking 31-year old Muslim woman Rana Elasmar for change in a
Parramatta café, before making derogatory comments about her
religion. He then leapt across the table and punched her more than
a dozen times, before stomping on her head when she fell to the
The horrific footage
of the unprovoked attack went viral on social media. At the time,
Ms Elasmar was 38-weeks pregnant.
She suffered head and facial injuries, as well as the lasting
psychological trauma that comes from such a vicious, unprovoked
Stipe Lozina pleaded guilty to
assault occasioning actual bodily harm and faced a maximum
penalty of five years in prison.
Despite the horrific nature of the assault, it should be said
that Lozina has endured a long battle with schizophrenia, and has
been in custody since his arrest.
He declined assistance
from the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales and insisted
on representing himself in court.
sentencing hearing in Parramatta District Court on 1 October
2020, Mr Lozina
turned his back on the woman he attacked. He also interrupted
Judge Craigie several times, making the unsubstantiated claim that
someone wearing a hijab had previously harmed his mother.
Mr Stipe, who appeared via videolink, was eventually warned that
the sentencing hearing would proceed without him if he did not stop
interjecting, to which he replied: “I don’t
Over-representation in the system
People with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia are
over-represented in the criminal justice system, and this is due to
a number of reasons including general social disadvantage, poverty,
homelessness and unemployment, deinstitutionalisation, substance
abuse, a lack of early intervention and a lack of mental health
services in the community.
Of course, people with serious mental illness are also often
agitated, aggravated and can be violent too. Without proper care
and supervision, some with very serious issues can be a threat to
the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported almost
half of prison entrants (49%) reported having been told by a health
professional that they have a mental health disorder, and more than
1 in 4 (27%) reported currently being on medication for a mental
A mental health diagnosis is taken seriously in the eyes of the
law and can lead to the defendant’s diversion away from the
criminal justice system and into the health system, depending on
the type of crime they commit.
section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990,
Local Courts are empowered to divert those who are suffering from
mental health conditions into a treatment plan that lasts up to six
months, instead of otherwise dealing with them according to the
But, even so, prisons have become default mental health
institutions over time.
Experts say that this is largely because of the outcomes of the
1983, the Richmond Inquiry into Health Services for the
Psychiatrically Ill and Developmentally Disabled. The final
recommendations of this inquiry included moving people out of
psychiatric wards to be cared for in the community.
It recommended that the NSW government fund a system of
community-based networks, to be backed up by specialist hospital
and accommodation services. Mental hospitals were to be
progressively reduced in size, and their services provided by
general hospitals, supported accommodation and hostels.
But the system has never worked as it was originally envisioned
in theory – for a variety of reasons – lack of funding,
lack of resources, lack of consistency and commitment over
successive governments, and a shortage of facilities to accommodate
Australia’s growing mentally ill population.
As such, people with serious mental illnesses can find
themselves marginalised from society, and many eventually come into
contact with the justice system. But across the nation, the ability
of prisons to adequately care for those suffering from serious
mental health conditions is limited.
In New South Wales, the Mental Health Screening Unit, (MHSU)
based at the Silverwater Correctional Centre in Sydney, is a
purpose built unit based on a Multidisciplinary Model of Care to
ensure comprehensive assessment and treatment of mentally ill
offenders, with the aim of achieving better outcomes through joint
management of offenders with mental health problems within the
It is jointly managed by Corrective Services and Justice Health
but it’s one of a kind, and services all the correctional
centres in New South Wales, which means that often prisoners who
need it are forced to wait weeks for a placement.
And the impact of not receiving adequate treatment has been well
documented, with the potential for prisoner mental health to
seriously deteriorate while behind bars but also on recidivism.
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