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 summary 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 the Easy Read version of the report (PDF)
- Download the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services Brochure (PDF)
- Download the Cost Benefit Analysis (PDF)
- Email the Melbourne Social Equity Institute to request a screen accessible version of the report or a printed copy
Read more about the Unfitness to Plead Project on Pursuit – Unfit to Plead: Imprisoned Without Conviction