Justice for WA’s mentally impaired is long overdue: Greens

Greens spokesperson for Mental Health and Disability Hon Alison Xamon MLC has called on the Attorney General to act on his promises to reform the heinous Criminal  Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act as a matter of urgency, and to ensure that these reforms apply equally to people already being held under the Act.

“Ever since this Government was elected the Attorney General has been saying that the reform of this draconian legislation is a priority, yet 2 years have passed and we still have not seen a bill,” Ms Xamon said during a speech in Parliament last night.

“Of course we want any revised bill to be the best it can be however in the meantime people with cognitive impairments and/or mental illness continue to be placed on custody orders and as a result be subject to indefinite detention without having been sentenced or even found guilty. 

She said “it is an indictment on the Western Australian government that it continues to drag its feet on reforming a law that so blatantly violates the rights of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. It also raises serious questions as to what will be happening with those people who are already on custody orders.

“Even the United Nations has weighed in by ruling the CLMIA Act to be in contravention of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Legal representatives are having to contend with the vexed position of knowing that if their client is ruled mentally impaired they may be detained indefinitely without conviction or, if they are found fit to plead, while they will have a finite sentence, inappropriately they will have to serve it in a prison.

“This state of affairs is even more appalling because being placed on a custody order doesn’t necessarily equate to being placed in a therapeutic environment such as a Graylands or the Disability Justice Centre.  

“Right now in WA, people on custody orders are subject to indefinite detention in prisons which only serves to further exacerbate their conditions,” she said. 

“Not only are people with mental impairments vulnerable to abuse in prison, they are also vulnerable to committing further crimes for things like assault because they are in a highly stressful, non-therapeutic environment with diminished cognitive resources to cope with these challenges.

“We have waited long enough, the Attorney General must introduce reforms to CLMIA as a matter of urgency, and ensure that these reforms apply retrospectively to people already on custody orders. 

“Rights are rights and they should apply equally to all -  no matter when the custody order was issued.”