Australia: a parliament committee on access and interactions that people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment have with the justice system

To read on the website of Parliament of Victoria, Australia:

Law reform committee

Media Release

From Clem Newton-Brown, MP, Chair

5 March 2013

Enhancing acces to justice for people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment

The Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee today tabled a report recommending a number of measures to maintain and promote the rights of people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment.

The Committee was asked to consider the access and interactions that people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment have with the justice system. The Committee recognizes the important role the police service, the courts and the legal profession can play to safeguard the rights of all people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment.

Common life experiences of people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, such as limited education and training opportunities, increased dependence on others to complete daily activities, and social isolation, can be both a barrier to interaction with the justice system and a cause for coming into contact with it. Throughout the Inquiry the Committee heard how critical it is that people working in the justice system are sensitive to the particular needs of people with these impairments.

Committee Chair, Mr Clem Newton-Brown MP said, “Compared to people without a disability, people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment are more likely to experience barriers and disadvantages when seeking access to and interaction with the justice system. It is therefore important that the police service, the courts and the legal profession are aware of the needs of people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, and have the right skills to ensure everyone in Victoria has equitable access to justice.”

The Committee also heard that people with a cognitive impairment face similar challenges to people with an intellectual disability when interacting with the justice system, but do not have access to the full range of services available to people with an intellectual disability. The Committee recommends that the Victorian Government consider establishing case management services for people with a cognitive impairment who seek access to, or are interacting with, the justice system.

The Committee proposes a number of measures that recognize the important role the police service, the courts and the legal profession play in safeguarding the rights of people with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment. The report contains 47 recommendations to the Victorian Government, including:

  • · that Victoria Police identify and make available a simple indicative screening test for use by police officers when they suspect that they have come into contact with a person with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment;
  • · that the Victorian Government consider amending the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) to allow investigations into an accused’s fitness to stand trial in the Magistrates’ and Children’s Courts; and
  • · that the Victorian Government consider establishing specialist advocacy roles within the Magistrates’, Children’s, County and Supreme Courts of Victoria to provide support to Magistrates and Judges to manage cases involving a person with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment.

The Victorian Government has six months to respond to the Committee’s recommendations.

Contact Mr Clem Newton-Brown for further comment on mobile 0411 255 179.

Copies of the report are available from the Papers Office, Parliament House.

To see the 47 recommendations, continue here.

This entry was posted in English.

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