The Magistrates Court Diversion Program is available to offenders with impaired intellectual or mental functioning (whether due to mental illness, intellectual disability, acquired brain injury or a neurological disorder) who have been charged with minor indictable or summary offences. To be eligible for the program there needs to be a link between the offender’s impairment and the offences with which they have been charged.
Access to this program is voluntary and before an offender is accepted into the program a Court assessment of their suitability to participate is made.
The Diversion Program takes 6 months to complete and during this time legal proceedings are adjourned.
The aims of the Magistrates Court Diversion Program are:
- to prevent further offending behaviour by providing offenders with services that address their mental health or disability needs;
- to assist the Court in the management of people with mental impairments in the Court system;
- to provide an alternative option for offenders who might otherwise plead a mental impairment defence under s 269 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA).
Whilst on the Diversion Program offenders are put in contact with community services that are appropriate to their needs and their progress is monitored. The Court itself does not provide participants of the program with treatment.
Throughout the program the Magistrate will review the offender’s progress every two months and, if necessary, will alter the existing program if there are problems with compliance. Failure to adhere to the program can result in the matter being referred back to a normal Court and a person’s removal from the Diversion Program.
At the final hearing the offender is required to appear before the Court for the Magistrate to make a determination of the matter, taking into account their performance and involvement in the program. It is open to the Magistrate to dismiss the matter or convict without penalty, depending on the circumstances of the case. Although that a person has not made progress or performed badly in the program is not relevant to the sentencing process [see Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 11(7)].
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