Dear Attorney General Mark Speakman,
The overrepresentation and disadvantage experienced by people with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system has been long recognised.
If you have an intellectual disability or another cognitive disability like autism or acquired brain injury then you need specialist support if you come into contact with the police and the courts.
Targeted support of people with cognitive disability can have a major, positive impact.
The Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) run by the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) and provides that targeted support to people with cognitive disability who are victims of crime, witnesses or accused of crimes. JAS helps people understand what is happening and exercise their rights.
The current funding of the Justice Advocacy Service ends in June. This is a critically important statewide service and we call on the Attorney General to confirm it will continue.
For three years, IDRS also ran the Cognitive Impairment Diversion Programme (CIDP) in two courts. This programme went a step further than JAS. It linked people into the supports they needed for a good life and to keep out of trouble with the law. This gave magistrates confidence to make diversionary orders rather than impose jail sentences and other penalties. Diversion orders were made in over 66% of cases.
The Department of Communities and Justice stopped funding the Cognitive Impairment Diversion Programme in June 2020. However, the Department recognised the importance of a programme like the CIDP and the value of extending it to more courts.
In the coming budget, we call on the government to commit to rolling out a statewide diversion programme for people with cognitive disabilities facing criminal charges.
It is critical that Indigenous Australians receive the benefit of programmes like JAS and CIDP. Encouragingly, over 25% of the clients of JAS and CIDP have been Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders.
Attorney General, we urge you to meet with the Council for Intellectual Disability and the Intellectual Disability Rights Service to ensure that the 2021 state budget includes necessary funding for:
- support of people with cognitive disability in their dealings with police and the courts as victims, witnesses or people accused of crimes, and
- diversion of alleged offenders from the courts into support from the NDIS and other human services.
— Mr Peter O’Brien
Principal Solicitor, O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors
Find out more information about Justice Matters on https://cid.org.au/our-campaigns/justice-matters/