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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (16 February) . . Page.. 188..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I jointly announced an improved management model for mental health patients who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

This model drew on best practices of other states and territories and on a feasibility study conducted by the Victorian Institute for Forensic Mental Health-Forensicare. The new model was expressed as six key initiatives: the first is a clarification of the definitions that apply to forensic mental health offenders and alleged offenders. The foreshadowed definition of mental impairment in the Criminal Code 2002 will apply to criminal law matters while definitions of therapeutic matters will remain in the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994.

The second initiative is a review of the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994 by the Department of Justice and Community Safety and ACT Health, which is now under way. The third initiative is a common assessment process for forensic mental health offenders and alleged offenders throughout the ACT's criminal justice system. The fourth initiative is the provision of facilities for the secure detention, treatment and care of offenders and alleged offenders, including a secure facility located at the Canberra Hospital for short and medium-term care. The fifth initiative is step-down options involving support packages and appropriate accommodation options. The sixth initiative is widely available forensic mental health training for government and non-government workers who provide mental health services to these patients.

The bill I introduce to the Assembly today implements the first initiative of this model-the application of different definitions to criminal justice matters and mental health treatment matters. The foreshadowed definition of mental impairment in the Criminal Code 2002 will apply to criminal law matters while definitions for therapeutic matters remain in the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994-the mental health act.

The rationale behind differentiating the definitions is that the current mental health act definitions were drafted for medical purposes and are principally about therapeutic treatment. Whether someone has a mental illness or a mental dysfunction dictates how, and by whom, they are managed under the mental health act. However, this therapeutic purpose does not benefit those people when they find themselves before the courts. The objectives are different. The definitions applied need to be different. The definition of mental impairment in the code is designed for criminal trials.

The code definition ensures that in a criminal prosecution a person would not be found guilty of a crime if they suffered from a mental impairment that had the effect that they did not know the nature and quality of the conduct or they suffered from a mental impairment that had the effect that they did not know that the conduct was wrong or they suffered from a mental impairment which had the effect that they could not control their conduct.

The definition used in the code also contemplates a much broader range of medical conditions than the definitions in the mental health act. The code defines mental impairment as including mental illness, which is an underlying pathological infirmity of the mind, whether of long or short duration and whether permanent or temporary, but does not include a condition resulting from the reaction of a healthy mind to extraordinary stimuli. The definition of mental impairment under the code also covers


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