Victorian Law Reform Commission releases report on crime, mental impairment and unfitness to be tried laws

21 Aug 2014

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has published its report on the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997. The report was tabled in the Victorian Parliament today.

The result of two years’ work, the report contains 107 recommendations to reform the laws that affect what happens to people charged with offences who are affected by a mental condition. People with a mental condition may not be fit to stand trial, or may be found not guilty because of mental impairment.

The recommendations include:

  • a new definition in the Act for ‘mental impairment’ that ‘includes, but is not limited to, mental illness, intellectual disability, and cognitive impairment’
  •  giving the  Magistrates’ Court and Children’s Court more powers to apply the laws about unfitness to stand trial and mental impairments
  • establishing a new youth facility for treating and supervising young people with mental conditions
  • requiring a jury to determine if someone is not guilty because of mental impairment in the Supreme and County Courts, in all cases when mental impairment is an issue
  • more support for victims and family members in cases involving unfitness to stand trial and mental impairment
  • introducing a system of five-year progress reviews by the court of people on indefinite supervision orders, in place of the previous system of nominal terms, under which major reviews were irregular
  • establishing a new medium-secure forensic mental health hospital
  • changes to the law to ensure equal treatment of people with an intellectual disability or other cognitive impairment.

Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, the Hon. Philip Cummins AM said: “These reforms aim to protect the community, while respecting the rights of people with mental conditions and helping them to recover. The best way to keep the community safe is by ensuring that people receive the right supervision and treatment.”

The Commission consulted with community members, police, victims of crime and their families, people subject to the law and their families, and health, disability and legal practitioners.
34 submissions were received. The report, recommendations and submissions are at www.lawreform.vic.gov.au.

Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, The Hon. Philip Cummins AM is available for interview.
Contact Nick Gadd, communications manager, Victorian Law Reform Commission.
Tel: (03) 8608 7824 / 0425 862 119 or email nick.gadd@lawreform.vic.gov.au

Date published: 
21 Aug 2014

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