Disability Advocates Condemn ‘Inappropriate’ Sentence For Ann Marie Smith Carer

Australia’s peak disability rights and advocacy body has condemned the sentence handed down today to disability support worker Rosa Maria Maione for the manslaughter of Adelaide resident Ann Marie Smith as manifestly inappropriate for such a shocking crime.

Ms Maione was sentenced to six years and seven months in prison – with a non-parole period of five years and three months – following the death of Ms Smith in 2020 as a result of Ms Maione’s criminal neglect. Ms Smith was a person with disability and Ms Maione was her support worker.

People with Disability Australia President Samantha Connor: “The sentence does not reflect the horrific nature of the crime that was carried out, where Ms Smith was left for an extended period in a woven cane chair before dying from a combination of septic shock and organ failure caused by malnutrition and gross neglect.

“Also, the official response so far has not held others to account who are directly and indirectly responsible for her death, including the National Disability Insurance Agency and the directors of Integrity Care, nor has the official response adequately addressed the systemic issues which caused Ms Smith’s death.

“This outcome fails to deliver justice for Ms Smith, her family, friends and community. It also reflects the devaluing of people with disability during the COVID pandemic – is that all Ann’s life was worth, after years of prolonged torture and abuse?

“This might seem like a ‘disability issue’, but at the root of this abuse is devaluing, exploitation and commodification and an issue which is common to so many women in Australia – domestic violence.”

Ms Connor said PWDA was also concerned about the shocking comments made by Ms Maione’s lawyer during the trial, where he described Ms Smith as being a ‘stubborn and difficult person’.

“We have had to say this too many times: There is never an excuse for abuse and neglect of people with disability.

“No other woman who was tortured and subsequently died in her home would have to endure the kind of victim-blaming comments that have been reported in the media. Ms Smith was systemically exploited, marginalised, targeted and isolated.

“As we said when the news about Ann Marie Smith was first reported in 2020, cases like Ms Smith’s are not isolated events but a consequence of deep systemic issues.

“In the past few years, we’ve heard harrowing accounts during the Disability Royal Commission about the violence, neglect and abuse that people with disability face, and too many of us live this every day.

“The directors of Integrity Care should also face charges of criminal neglect, for which the South Australian legislation makes adequate provision. We also call for a thorough, truly independent and transparent investigation about the circumstances which led to Ms Smith’s death, including the involvement and potential accountability of the National Disability Insurance Agency.

“PWDA also holds concerns that Ms Smith’s death will provide leverage for the government to introduce new and potentially unwanted changes to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and it’s regulatory framework and urges caution in government decision making without thorough co-design and consultation with disabled persons’ and disability representative organisations.”

If you’re having a hard time with recent events, support is available. We encourage anyone that is struggling to reach out to any of the following services: 

1800 RESPECT is the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. (1800 737 732)

Lifeline has 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services. (13 11 14)

Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline is a dedicated FACS contact line for Aboriginal victims of crime who would like information on victims’ rights, how to access counselling and financial assistance. (1800 019 123)

Mensline is a telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional health and relationship concerns. (1300 789 978)

Kids Helpline is a free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25. (1800 551 800)

People who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or have a speech impairment can use the National Relay Service (NRS) to call any of these services. Please phone 133 677.

If you need support in another language, please use the free-of-charge Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450.

You can report abuse and neglect via the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline on 1800 880 052 or email hotline@workfocus.com.

ENDS

Background:

Media Contact:

Michael Badorrek, PWDA Marketing & Communications Manager

michaelb@pwd.org.au | +61 408 682 867