A more just Australia for people with disability
6 October 2023
Implementation of the recommendations of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will make a vital contribution to ensuring a more inclusive and just Australia which supports people with disability to live independently and in safety, the Law Council of Australia said today.
“People with disability are significantly overrepresented across the criminal justice system in Australia, as victims as well as persons accused or convicted of crime. They are also at heightened risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation in criminal justice settings,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Luke Murphy said.
“The Royal Commission amplified the voices of people with disability enabling them to be heard on how we as a nation can address this unacceptable situation.
“We were pleased to see the Final Report included a focus on support for people with disability in the justice system and reflected positions raised by the Law Council.”
In particular, the Law Council welcomes the Royal Commission’s recommendations regarding achieving more disability-inclusive definitions of family and domestic violence.
It further welcomes the Royal Commission’s recommendation for remaining Australian jurisdictions to develop a Disability Plan and/or Strategy that reflects the Commission’s findings, including those regarding involvement of people with disability in the justice system.
“We were particularly pleased to see that the Royal Commission made several recommendations in relation to the treatment of people with disability—including First Nations Australians with disability—in the criminal justice system,” Mr Murphy said.
“The Law Council welcomes the Royal Commission’s focus on the preventive inspection regime that Australia is establishing under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. A disability-aware National Preventive Mechanism is much-needed to address some of the disturbing issues highlighted in witnesses’ evidence to the Royal Commission about conditions in detention around the country for those with disability—particularly cognitive disability.”
A major focus for the Royal Commission was the situation of people with disability who are found unfit to plead in criminal proceedings. The Law Council supports revision of the National Statement of Principles Relating to Persons Unfit to Plead or Found Not Guilty by Reason of Cognitive or Mental Health Impairment to address to address the potential for those found unfit to plead to be detained indefinitely and/or in inappropriate settings.
The Law Council strongly supports recommendations made by the Royal Commission in relation to youth with disability and the justice system, including in relation to
a prohibition on solitary confinement, diversion from criminal proceedings and raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility. In its submission to the Royal Commission, the Law Council suggested that training for police on early identification of those with complex needs, along with therapeutic justice initiatives such as problem-solving courts, should be adopted.
“We are now considering the Royal Commission’s broader suite of 222 recommendations,” Mr Murphy said, “and encourage close consideration to be given to the work of the Disability Royal Commission, by all levels of Australian government.”
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