NSW to recognise mentally ill defendant’s crimes

By Naomi Neilson|04 June 2020
mental health

NSW government decision to change the wording around mentally ill defendants could see the victims of these crimes receive some form of justice.

As it currently stands, a mentally ill defendant can be found not guilty of an offence despite the courts concluding that they were the one who committed it. An Australian-first bill that was introduced in Parliament this week will seek to maintain protection for these impaired people, but at the same time acknowledge that the crime has been committed.

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The new bill will replace the term “not guilty by reason of mental illness” with a verdict that will be known as “act proven but not criminally responsible”.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman said: “If someone is so mentally or cognitively impaired that they do not understand what they have done or the morality of what they have done, then there are no criminal consequences.

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“This is about making sure the criminal justice system respects the trauma and pain of all victims and their family members, recognising that the act has been done notwithstanding that the accused is not criminally responsible.”

Mr Speakman added that less than 2 per cent of cases in local court involve something like this, but victims of crimes have been calling for a change. The government said there were victim groups, mental health professionals and legal experts consulted for the bill.

NSW to recognise mentally ill defendant’s crimes
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