NZ Police Renew Criminal Investigation of “Shock-Torture Doc” Despite 40 Years Lapse in His Use of ECT Device to Shock Children’s Genitals as “Therapy”

New Zealand police announced that a fresh inquiry into child torture using electroshock at Lake Alice psychiatric hospital in the 1970s could lead to criminal charges and extradition of psychiatrist responsible, Selwyn Leeks.[1] Despite 40 years since the abuses occurred, a December 2019 damning report from the United Nations Committee on Torture promoted police to reopen the case. The NZ government reported, “Police consider the allegations of ECT applied to the patients’ genitals could reach the threshold of an indecent assault under the Crimes Act 1961.”[2]

Additionally, the highest form of government inquiry called a Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care is scheduled to hold public hearings about Lake Alice’s child and adolescent unit later in the year, at which police will give evidence. New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft has said Lake Alice remains a “damning indictment on New Zealand’s past care and protection practices”, and further investigation into the abusive practices at the former psychiatric hospital was clearly required.[3]

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) investigated the hospital in the 1970s finding Leeks was electrocuting boys’ genitals for behavior modification using an electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock) device. The children were not anesthetized but punitively shocked directly to various body parts.  CCHR was instrumental in obtaining a magisterial inquiry at the time and forced the closure of the shock ward.[4] Leeks was not prosecuted and moved to Australia where CCHR persisted in filing complaints with a medical licensing board against him practicing. The psychiatrist eventually surrendered his license over charges of unprofessional conduct. Separately, an Australian court ordered him to pay $55,000 in damages to a female patient he’d sexually abused.[5]

CCHR sees the NZ case as a test for prosecuting other instances where ECT devices were used to torture patients, regardless of how long ago.

In the 1990s CCHR joined surviving Lake Alice victims in demanding compensation for them and in 2001, the government finally apologized, paying out a mere NZ$10 million (US$6.7 million).[6]  CCHR also supported a former torture patient, Paul Zentveld, in filing complaints to the United Nations Committee on Torture. Zentveld was admitted to Lake Alice in 1974 for three years when he was aged 13.[7]

Subsequently in 2012, the UN Committee put the NZ government on notice and raised concerns over an earlier police decision to end its criminal investigation in 2009 without prosecuting Leeks or any Lake Alice staff.[8]

In December 2019, the UN further criticized the police inquiry. Police are now re-investigating the claims and have suggested prosecution could still happen. Lake Alice victim Malcolm Richards says: “It would be massive for so many people to have Leeks locked up.”[9] The Government’s response to the UN says that police will also consider approaching former patients who believe the ECT they received was given as a punishment. Subsequent interviews could form the basis for further action.

The police investigation occurs in several stages:

  • In the first stage, a police team are assessing the allegations, and searching for documentation from agencies such as the Ministry of Health. “This phase will include examining statements on file from former Lake Alice staff to determine who it may be appropriate to approach to further assist the investigation.”
  • In phase two, police detectives and a specialist analyst will conduct interviews – “from any person that steps forward” – and analyze evidence. Eleven former Lake Alice patients have alleged ECT was used on their genitals, police say. Three are dead, “leaving eight individuals to be located.”
  • Leeks will be “a person of interest” in phase three of the investigation. He would be contacted “to gauge his preparedness to engage with police detectives.” Then, the accumulated evidence will be sent to Crown Law for assessment and advice.
  • “The Crown Law office will be asked whether the relevant threshold for criminal charges is reached, and whether extradition of Dr Leeks from Australia would be an available option.”

Other Examples of Torture and Mind Control

Media and legal actions continue today on a case where an electroshock device was used in psychiatric mind control experiments conducted in the 1960s in Canada, and arguably torture. The CIA funded the reckless and dangerous experiments using electroshock that Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron conducted at the Allan Memorial Institute (AMI) in Montreal. The methods he developed were called “depatterning” and “psychic driving.” They destroyed a patient’s personality by repeated shocks up to forty times the intensity considered safe.

Cameron’s history includes president of both the American Psychiatric Association and World Psychiatric Association.

The CIA paid Cameron $69,000 to carry out this abuse as part of their mind control operation code named MK-ULTRA. However, a 2019 lawsuit filed over the experiments alleged that Cameron received four grants from the Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare between 1948 and 1964 totaling $162,206.41. Adjusted for inflation, today that would be approximately $1,696,350, it is claimed.[10]

Cameron carried out the brutal experiments despite being a supporter of the Nuremberg Code, specifically designed to outlaw experimentation and medical maltreatment. He swore an oath to uphold the code’s tenets and to abide by the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.”[11]

John Marks, author of The Search for The Manchurian Candidate, detailed: “The frequent screams of patients [usually women] that echoed through the hospital did not deter Cameron or most of his associates in their attempts to ‘depattern’ their subjects completely.  Other hospital patients report being petrified by the ‘sleep rooms,’ where the treatment took place, and they would usually creep down the opposite side of the hall.”

In March 1980, eight of Cameron’s former patients sued the CIA and Canadian government over Cameron’s mind control experiments. In October 1988, the CIA, represented by the U.S. Department of Justice, agreed to settle with the plaintiffs for $750,000 on the understanding they would never discuss the case in public again.[12] While it did not admit liability, in 1992, the Canadian government made ex gratia payments of $100,000 each to still-living patients who were “de-patterned” at the Allan between 1950 and 1965.[13]

Lawsuits, however, are still being filed despite the more than 50-year lapse.  In 2019, the daughter of a Cameron survivor, Julie Tanny, then 65, filed a class-action lawsuit application in Quebec’s Superior Court on behalf of anyone Cameron treated at AMI from 1948-64. It alleges, in effect, that the doctor’s practice of “de-patterning” his patients—using drug cocktails, electroconvulsive shocks and broadcasts of the same message hundreds of thousands of times in a row to wash their brain of “illness”—ruined hundreds of lives: the patients and their family members and children.

The lawsuit, which the court still has to certify, characterizes Cameron’s tactics as “nothing more than an electronic lobotomy.” It claims he damaged many of his patients’ brains and shattered their psyches, leaving them unable “to function in society and within their families.”[14]

The 81-page application for a class action lawsuit says: “Simply put, the Montreal experiments were a form of psychological torture inflicted upon hundreds of unsuspecting persons and which had traumatizing, damaging and emotionally crippling effects that lasted for the remainder of their lives and lives of their families.”[15]

Two of the four defendants named in the application are the McGill University Health Centre and the Royal Victoria Hospital, institutions, the lawsuit alleges, that “participated in, knew about” or otherwise enabled Cameron’s experiments. The others are the Canadian government and the U.S. Department of Justice which funded Cameron’s experiments.[16]

Another lawsuit is a $1 million per family lawsuit led by plaintiffs Marilyn Rappaport and Alison Steel that’s dated 13 February 2019.[17]

Alison Steel, the daughter of a woman whose mind was destroyed at AMI, had previously received a $100,000 payout from the government in 2017.[18]

CCHR International started a blog and resource about ECT called The Truth About ECT in which it describes a CIA document dated 3 December 1951 which said the use of subconvulsive electroshock had the effect of “making a man talk.”

  • An unnamed psychiatrist quoted in the CIA document obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, stated that the lower setting of the device “produced in the individual excruciating pain and that the individual would be quite willing to give information if threatened with the use of this machine.” The psychiatrist called this a “third degree” method.[19]
  • In the same document, the psychiatrist tells the CIA that a person “can be reduced to the vegetable level” through the use of electroshock. The document further states: “… [t]he standard electric-shock machine could be used in two ways. One setting…produced the normal electric shock treatment (with convulsion) with amnesia after a number of treatments…. [T]he other or lower setting of the machine produced a different type of shock… when it was applied without convulsion, it had the effect of making a man talk….”
  • An accompanying document from the CIA MK-ULTRA [code name] file mentioned a planned assassination experiment to be done “on a prominent … [blacked out] politician or if necessary against an American official.”[20]
  • A U.S. Freedom of Information Act document dated July 1963 and titled “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” was a manual to teach interrogation. It details American psychologists studying “the effects of debility and isolation, the polygraph, reactions to pain and fear, hypnosis and heightened suggestibility, narcosis, etc.” Page 102 of the manual addresses interrogatees who claim they are ill in order to avoid further questioning or a polygraph. A technique recommended in such instances is to “express grave concern, and tell the ‘patient’ that the only remedy for his illness is a series of electric shock treatments or a frontal lobotomy.”[21] Such is the fear shock treatment engenders.
  • In a document the FDA provided in response to a CCHR FOIA request regarding ECT, it provided pages from the Annals New York Academy of Sciences, circa 1986, which discusses ECT. “Criticism that we are still treating psychiatric disorders of which we do not know the causes with treatments whose mechanisms we do not understand” led to psychiatrists conducting more studies. Yet today, they still admit they do not know how ECT reportedly “works.” The article further states, “One must seriously question whether any grant application for experimenting on humans with artificially induced convulsions [which ECT relies upon] would have been approved in this country. Also, it cannot be denied that research in psychiatry looked unscientific in the sense that the discovery of the treatment…was based purely on clinical observations of patients not in research centers but in mental institutions which today are ill reputed….”[22]

Electroshock is a form of torture whether mitigated by anesthetics and muscle relaxants and it should be prosecuted as an assault. The ultimate solution to protecting patients from this assault is to ban it. Click here to support a ban on electroshock.


[1] “Extradition possible for Lake Alice torture,” Newsroom NZ, 30 Apr. 2020,

[2] “Extradition possible for Lake Alice torture,” Newsroom NZ, 30 Apr. 2020,

[3] “Extradition possible for Lake Alice torture,” Newsroom NZ, 30 Apr. 2020,




[7] “Extradition possible for Lake Alice torture,” Newsroom NZ, 30 Apr. 2020,


[9] “Extradition possible for Lake Alice torture,” Newsroom NZ, 30 Apr. 2020,





[14] “’Electronic lobotomy’: Montreal doctor ruined hundreds of lives with CIA-funded ‘depatterning’ treatment, victims say,” National Post, 31 Jan. 2019,


[16] “’Electronic lobotomy’: Montreal doctor ruined hundreds of lives with CIA-funded ‘depatterning’ treatment, victims say,” National Post, 31 Jan. 2019,


[18] “’Electronic lobotomy’: Montreal doctor ruined hundreds of lives with CIA-funded ‘depatterning’ treatment, victims say,” National Post, 31 Jan. 2019,

[19] citing: Document obtained via the Freedom of Information Act dealing with the Central Intelligence Agency’s MK-ULTRA program “Artichoke” dated 3 December 1951 entitled, “Artichoke”–… (blanked out).

[20] citing:  Document obtained via the Freedom of Information Act dealing with the Central Intelligence Agency’s MK-ULTRA program “Artichoke,” dated January 1954.

[21] July 1963 titled “Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation” MORI docID: 107399

[22] Kalinowsky, L. B. (1986). History of Convulsive Therapy. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 462(1 Electroconvul), 1–4. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1986.tb51233.x ,


Leave a Comment