Page 901 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2006

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reaction of a healthy mind to extraordinary stimuli”. The definition of “mental impairment” under the code also covers conditions such as senility, intellectual disability, mental disease, brain damage and severe personality disorder.

The amendments will mean that when offenders come before the courts and the Mental Health Tribunal becomes involved, the issue for determination will be whether they suffer from a mental impairment and what that means for the allegations before the court by application of definitions designed specifically for the criminal justice system. It is expected that these improvements to the current system will ensure that, instead of categorising people into two classes—either that of mental illness or mental dysfunction—we can ensure that their medical conditions are recognised and responded to by the criminal justice system.

The bill also evidences the government’s commitment to the ongoing Criminal Code project and harmonisation of all ACT legislation with the code to bring offences and related provisions into line with the general principles of criminal responsibility contained in chapter 2 of the code by reviewing the effective provisions to ensure their code compliance.

Finally, the bill re-enacts the transitional provisions made by amendments enacted by the Crimes Amendment Act 2005 to make clear the government’s intention to ensure that all decisions made that persons are unfit to plead are reviewable pursuant to section 68 of the mental health act. These amendments were publicly foreshadowed in May of last year. The intergovernmental departmental committee considered the needs and views of consumers and carers, the Community Advocate, the courts, police and Corrective Services when recommending the new initiatives. In addition to this, the Chief Minister’s Department consulted with peak representative groups—namely the Mental Health Community Coalition of the ACT and the ACT Mental Health Consumer Network—to advise them of the intention to introduce this legislation. Further, a briefing on the legislation took place in March for interested community members. On behalf of the government, I thank the people who participated in that briefing for their time and comments.

Community consultation has been an imperative part of this process. This bill is only a small part of the reforms the government is committed to in this area. The much broader review being conducted jointly by the Chief Minister’s Department and ACT Health of the mental health act will result in the release of a discussion paper soon for community consultation. This, together with other initiatives developed by the model, will allow us to take a comprehensive and systemic approach to forensic mental health care and custody, and move us closer to an improved model for the care of mental health patients who come into contact with the criminal justice system. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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