Law Council of Australia


Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

Issues Paper – the Criminal Justice System

The Law Council made a substantial submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Royal Commission) in response to its Issues Paper: Criminal Justice System. The Law Council welcomes the Royal Commission’s focus on this issue.

People with disability are significantly overrepresented across the criminal justice system in Australia, as victims as well as persons accused or convicted of crime.

While not in themselves ‘causes’ of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with disability in the criminal justice system, important ‘enablers’ include higher rates of poverty and unemployment and lower educational outcomes, often stemming from systemic discrimination. These may create environments in which violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation flourish, and people cannot uphold their legal rights. Addressing such underlying factors may place individuals in a stronger future position.

As in broader society, people with disability also face negative stigma, discrimination, and inadequate understanding of disability across the criminal justice system. This can lead to acceptance, and even expectations, of bullying and abuse, such as in prison settings, and of poor outcomes such as lapsed police investigations. Failing to identify and respond appropriately to disability can lead to a significant risk of injustice. For example, in the courts, poor communication responses may lead to a person pleading guilty without cause, an incorrect assessment of an accused person’s fitness to plead, or another’s exclusion from diversionary or rehabilitation programs. Negative stereotypes about the reliability of evidence given by a person with disability also amplify the possibility of a miscarriage of justice.

You can read the full submission below.


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