Access to justice for people with mental illness and disability

Access to justice for people with mental illness and disability

People with mental illness and disability are over-represented in the justice system. The 2012 Legal Australia-Wide survey found that people with a mental illness or disability were more than twice as likely to experience legal problems. They are also more likely to experience multiple legal problems and have difficulty resolving them.

The justice system can be a particularly challenging place for people with disability and mental illness. We support more appropriate and effective responses for people in these circumstances, such as greater access to support, rehabilitation and tailored interventions.

We have significant experience helping people with disability or mental illness and use this expertise to advocate for reforms to prevent, and more effectively resolve, the legal problems of this priority client group.

Justice and law reform activities

Submission to the Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws Issues Paper

Our submission responds to questions posed in the issues paper that relate to priority areas of concern for Victoria Legal Aid. These relate to the recognition of legal capacity, improvements to our disability discrimination regime and eligibility requirements for the Disability Support Pension. We also highlight priority issues relating to accessibility of legal services and remedies.

Read: Submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s issues paper (doc, 352.5 KB).

Review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act

Our recent submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 calls for legislative change to further support people with a mental illness, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment when they are involved with the justice system.

Our submission covered issues including improving the process for determining fitness to stand trial, extending the operation of the Act to the Magistrates’ Court and improving the process for the review, leave and management of people subject to supervision.

Read: Submission to the review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (doc, 689.5 KB).

Supporting the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme

In this submission we indicated our general support for the establishment of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) but made some recommendations for improvement. For example, we recommended meaningful access to review of decisions by ensuring legal assistance was adequately funded. We are members of the Every Australian Counts campaign, which supports the introduction of an NDIS.

Read: Submission on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill 2012 (Commonwealth Senate Community Affairs Committee) (doc, 375 KB).

Access to justice by people with an intellectual disability

In our submission to a Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform inquiry, we recommended a number of strategies to enhance access to justice for people with disabilities and their families and carers. We particularly highlighted the benefit of early intervention and tailored initiatives.

Read: Submission to the inquiry into access to and interaction with the justice system by people with an intellectual disability and their families and carers (doc, 348.5 KB).

Guardianship

We supported the comprehensive review of the existing guardianship framework. This submission makes a number of recommendations on how the existing legislation relating to guardianship can be consolidated, updated and simplified.

Read: Submission on Guardianship Consultation paper (Victorian Law Reform Commission) (doc, 468.5 KB)