From the moment a person with a mental illness or intellectual disability is first interviewed by police, specific procedures, laws and human rights obligations apply. The defence of mental impairment should always be considered, but important legal factors must be considered. Assistance for going to court should be planned ahead, and consideration of criminal justice diversion programs, and the specialist Assessment and Referral Court that can provide psychological assessment and referral to welfare, health, mental health, disability, housing services, and/or to drug and alcohol treatment. More sentencing options are available and supervision and leave orders for forensic patients.


Liam McAuliffe


More information about disability and criminal justice

Last updated

1 July 2022

More information about aspects of disability – including relevant legislation, and disability related services – is contained in Chapter 8.1: Understanding disability and the law.

Chapter 8.2: Disability: Asserting your rights has contact information for specialist legal services that deal with particular areas of disability, and on advocacy services that assist people with disabilities. 

Chapter 8.4: Mental illness and Chapter 8.5: Intellectual disability and the law contain more detailed coverage of the law relating to people with a psychiatric and intellectual disability, respectively.

Chapter 8.6: Guardianship and medical treatment deals with issues of guardianship and administration affecting people with disabilities.

See also Chapter 8.7: Understanding powers of attorney.

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Disability, mental illness and the law