Widow feels let down at Ashley Bryant inquest findings
By Sam McKeith
THE widow of a former police officer who suicided on the NSW Far North Coast says she feels "let down" after an inquest into his tragic death.
Ashley Bryant, 44, sustained fatal injuries after falling from a cliff at Minyon Falls, near Lismore, in December 2013 following more than two decades as a police officer.
His death followed years battling alcoholism and mental health problems including depression and post traumatic stress disorder linked to his police work.
A coronial inquest in Sydney has been examining a number of issues related to his death, including his mental health diagnosis, the adequacy of NSW Police mental health support, and the help offered to him following his discharge on medical grounds.
Revealing his findings on Tuesday, NSW coroner Michael Barnes said NSW Police was aware from 2006 that Mr Bryant was at serious risk from post traumatic stress disorder, but "failed to adequately investigate or respond to it".
Magistrate Barnes said police erred that year when recommending Mr Bryant be considered fully fit for operational duty, despite a police psychologist assessing him as at risk of developing PTSD.
"The NSW Police Force systems then in place were deficient in that they provided no mechanism to ensure the follow up review ... was actually undertaken," the coroner said.
"Nor were any of the commands Ashley subsequently served in warned that he was at risk of relapse of alcohol dependence."
In the wake of Mr Bryant's death, NSW Police was "actively and effectively engaging" to better manage the impact of extreme stress on officers, he added.
Magistrate Barnes found that the conduct of insurers, who made decisions related to Mr Bryant's post-service entitlement via NSW Police's Death and Disability Scheme, was outside the scope of the inquiry.
"It would be inappropriate for these findings to make adverse comment about them when the companies and individuals involved have not been given an opportunity to respond," he said.
Speaking outside court, Mr Bryant's widow, Deborah Bryant, said her family was "dismayed" that the coroner made no recommendations related to her late husband's dealings with insurers.
"Our family has consistently maintained that the treatment Ashley received at the hands of the insurers may have played a significant role in his decision to suicide," Ms Bryant told reporters outside the Glebe Coroners Court.
"The Coroner has ruled that the actions and the inactions of police insurers is outside the scope of the inquest, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that showed that Ashley was left to the mercy of private insurers in his time of need.
"We wished that we would be able to get a better result than we did today and our family feels that we have been greatly let down." - NewsRegional