Eligibility guidelines continue to prioritise criminal law clients with a cognitive impairment

Eligibility guidelines continue to prioritise criminal law clients with a cognitive impairment

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

We are committed to ensuring that people with a psychiatric or intellectual disability or an acquired brain injury are a priority for intensive legal services, and we assess their needs carefully so they receive targeted services.

One misconception about recent changes to eligibility guidelines is that people in this vulnerable client group who are charged with criminal offences miss out on legal assistance. These clients are eligible for the following assistance and services:

Duty lawyer service

People who have an intellectual disability, an acquired brain injury or a mental illness and are facing a serious or straightforward criminal charge are eligible for representation through our duty lawyer service. This is also the case for clients who are experiencing homelessness or are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background or unable to adequately communicate in English.

Other people who face serious consequences are also represented in the Magistrates’ Court through our duty lawyer service. This includes people who are at real risk of imprisonment, a community corrections order or a fine in excess of $1500.

An income test applies to everyone except those people who are in custody.

Assistance under a grant of legal assistance

In adult summary crime matters, people who face serious consequences are eligible for representation in the Magistrates’ Court under a grant of legal assistance where they meet the means test.

See Criminal law guideline 1.1, Criminal law guideline 1.2 and Criminal law guideline 1.3.

Under the traffic guidelines introduced in October last year, a grant of legal assistance is available for a person charged with a traffic offence in some circumstances.

The person must be receiving services from an approved mental health service under the Mental Health Act 1986, or be an eligible person registered under the Disability Act 2006. They must also be facing an immediate term of imprisonment or a suspended sentence.

See Criminal law guideline 2.

More information

For an overview of the changes to eligibility guidelines, see Grants guidelines. For specific information about the current guidelines see the VLA Handbook for lawyers.

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