Unfitness to Plead Final Report Launched

Unfitness to plead laws in Australia have been widely recognised as requiring reform and modernisation. The Unfitness to Plead Project sought to develop practical and legal options to address the problem of people with cognitive disabilities being found unfit to plead and subject to indefinite detention.

According to the research team’s final report, people with cognitive disabilities face barriers across the entire criminal justice system. Disadvantages identified include:

  • Inaccessible court proceedings that rely on complex language;
  • Inconsistent availability of support throughout court proceedings;
  • Under-resourced legal services;
  • Long delays in proceedings involving accused people with cognitive disabilities;
  • The “criminalisation of disabilities” whereby the environmental causes of difficult behaviour are ignored or played down, or behaviour associated with a disability is misinterpreted as defiance.

The research team developed a Disability Justice Support Program, which helped accused people take part in legal proceedings and exercise their legal rights. This was found to reduce the need for unfitness to plead declarations.

The program did this by developing and introducing cost-effective, culturally appropriate supports for those at risk of being found unfit to plead into community legal centres in Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Download a copy of the final report (PDF)

Additional Materials 

Read more about the Unfitness to Plead Project on Pursuit – Unfit to Plead: Imprisoned Without Conviction

More Information

social-equity@unimelb.edu.au