Sam Dibley's father, John Dibley and sister, Joy Dibley, with Sam's portrait outside Coffs Harbour Courthouse during the recent three-day inquest, which concluded in Sydney.
Sam Dibley's father, John Dibley and sister, Joy Dibley, with Sam's portrait outside Coffs Harbour Courthouse during the recent three-day inquest, which concluded in Sydney. Leigh Jensen

Family seeks answers over suicide

CORONER Paul McMahon has refused a request from lawyers for NSW Health to suppress publication of details of the coronial inquiry into the death of Coffs Harbour man Sam Dibley.

Mr Dibley committed suicide while an inpatient in the mental health unit of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus in May 2009.

Mr McMahon said it was already in the public domain that 23-year-old Mr Dibley had died as a result of hanging and he was comfortable that it was in the public interest that the investigation be public, as desired by the family.

The coroner agreed to a suppression order on the mechanical details of the incident.

He also suppressed publication of another issue which arose at the inquiry and which involved a third party.

Speaking outside Coffs Harbour Courthouse yesterday, Mr Dibley's father, John Dibley, said it had been a very difficult process to relive his son's death, but the family was grateful for the opportunity to hear witnesses and get a better understanding of what happened.

Supported by Sam's sister Joy and controlling his voice with difficulty, an emotional John Dibley said Sam had been much loved by his family.

"We appreciate the position the coroner is in to try to find answers," he said.

"We hope the coroner's findings can reach a conclusion so people realise the problems with mental health services in Coffs Harbour and changes can be made so it never happens again."

Among those who gave evidence at the inquiry yesterday was Greg Norton Baker, who was the nurse unit manager in charge of the psychiatric inpatient unit at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital in May 2009.

In response to questioning, Mr Norton Baker agreed that there was no formally ratified policy in relation to care levels in that unit on May 20, 2009, but staff in the unit worked from a draft document which later became the basis of a formally ratified policy.

He said levels 1 and 2 required direct observation, but level 3 did not, although it required 'continual awareness' of the patient's whereabouts.

Lifeline's 24-hour telephone crisis support service can be contacted on 131 114.



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