What is a Section 32?
Section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 allows a Court to deal with a summary offence without conviction on the basis that a mental health treatment plan in the community is a better option.
It allows the Local Court to divert people with mental health issues out of the criminal justice system. The order will have the effect of dismissing the charges with neither a guilty or not guilty finding on the basis that a community-based mental health treatment plan is followed.
How do you get a Section 32?
A section 32 application is usually made by the lawyer representing you in Court. However, it can be raised by any party to the proceedings.
A magistrate may also suggest that consideration should be given to a Section 32 during the proceedings at any point in time.
The granting of a Section 32 order is entirely at the Court’s discretion, and a wide range of factors can be taken into consideration.
Punishment -V- Treatment
In making their decision, the Court needs to balance two things. The public interest in a convicted person facing the full weight of the law versus the public interest in diverting and treating a person with mental health issues through a mental health care plan.
Magistrates will not usually grant a Section 32 order unless they are satisfied that the defendant will receive the appropriate treatment necessary to ensure they will not re-offend.
An application for a Section 32 usually includes a detailed care plan from a psychologist or psychiatrist as a fundamental part of the documents to be put before the Court.
Preparation is everything
If you are considering a section 32 application, it is imperative that you give your solicitor sufficient notice of your intentions.
An experienced mental health professional needs to prepare a report which outlines the mental health conditions diagnosed, and develop an appropriate treatment plan that will satisfy the Court.
Many Section 32 applications fail because the report and treatment plan prepared by the health professional is seen to be deficient by the Court.
The Magistrate has an overall discretion when considering a Section 32 application and will reject the application outright if they believe that there is insufficient information before the Court on a diagnostic basis to support the proposed treatment plan.
Who can apply for a section 32?
Those eligible for Section 32 diversion include persons suffering –
- A developmental disability
- A mental condition for which treatment is available in a health facility
- A mental illness
Some mental health conditions that may be applicable include –
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autistic Spectrum Disorder
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Bipolar Disorder
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Intellectual Disabilities
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
We are here to help
If you have been charged with a criminal offence and believe you have a mental health condition, it is essential to have your case assessed by an experienced lawyer.
Fourtree Lawyers have extensive experience representing clients with mental health issues. We will ensure you are assessed by a psychologist or psychiatrist experienced in writing Section 32 mental health reports and effective treatment and care plans.
Contact our Central Coast Lawyers on 1300 529 444 as soon as possible for a free initial consultation and assessment of your case.
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