Finding means a fairer system for people with mental health issues

Finding means a fairer system for people with mental health issues

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

We know that the justice system sits at the centre of a deeply interconnected set of social problems: poverty, substance dependence, homelessness, family violence and of course mental health issues. 

A recent Supreme Court decision, following an appeal by Victoria Legal Aid (VLA), has helped that system take a small step towards being better able to properly account for this. 

In the decision Brown v The Queen, the Court of Appeal of Victoria found unanimously that our client, Daylia Brown, should have her sentence reduced on account of her diagnosed personality disorders. 

This decision sets a new precedent, that the totality of a person's mental health be considered when sentencing and overturns a previous decision which excluded personality disorders from consideration by the court.

‘It's a fantastic result that means than many of our most vulnerable clients will now have their circumstances properly taken into account in sentencing,’ said Tim Marsh, VLA’s chief counsel.

‘Prior to Daylia’s case, the court was unable to truly consider a person’s entire mental health situation when sentencing. This decision allows people living with mental health issues to be treated as individuals, with unique circumstances, rather than be forced into categories.

‘Now, the law lines up with the best, most recent thinking of the psychiatric profession,’ said Tim.

This decision also points to VLA’s unique role in the justice sector, and how we can, through strategic use of our resources, help large numbers of our community’s most marginalised people. 

‘As the Court noted, this was an issue of some significance to our client base. We were able to use the breadth and reach of our staff practice to identify how best to approach this issue, which has led to a decision that will benefit huge numbers of people who struggle with their mental health every day,’ said Tim. 

‘It’s a decision which reflects on the unique role VLA has in the justice sector and how we are able to achieve results that resonate far beyond our immediate, day-to-day clients,’ he said.

More information

Read the full judgement

Read more about our work building a better justice system for people with mental health issues

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