WAJA & WAAMH Report: Strengthening the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996 (WA) (‘CLMIA Act’)

The Western Australian Justice Association (WAJA) partnered with the Western Australia Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) to areas for improvement within the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996 (WA), also known as the CLMIA Act, as the current CLMIA Act fails to uphold the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness, leaving individuals with mental and cognitive impairments without appropriate treatment, exposing individuals to indefinite imprisonment, often exceeding potential sentences for criminal convictions, undermining core justice system values such as equality and the right to a fair trial.

The report, titled Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: A Report to Strengthen the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act, identifies potential solutions, including a centralised process in courts to determine fitness to stand trial, improving communication and cooperation between key agencies, and restoring fitness in a person-centered, family-sensitive, and recovery-focused manner.

Deficiencies in the current system were identified through extensive literature reviews and consultations with key agencies. WAJA & WAAMH present a series of recommendations for a proposed new system to ensure fair, informed outcomes for accused individuals under the CLMIA Act. The intention of the report, in conjunction with existing recommendations, is to strengthen advocacy efforts by WAAMH to protect the rights of this vulnerable group.

Report recommendations

The recommendations are categorised into three key areas. First, in the Improving the Process in Courts section, suggestions include enhancing information sharing, implementing a list approach for cases related to unfitness, reforming fitness testing, granting more judicial discretion for custody orders, setting limits on detention, and reforming the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board (MIARB).

In the Streamlining the Process for Lawyers section, proposals involve implementing a support person to bridge information gaps, enhancing support for lawyers and clients, supporting clients through a fair trial, providing training for lawyers, and ensuring representation rights for mentally impaired individuals.

Lastly, under Endorsing a Person-Centered Approach, the recommendations focus on advocating for increased access to custody facilities and strengthening the use of Support Plans to achieve better outcomes. The recommendations aim to address the deficiencies in the existing system and provide a comprehensive approach to improve the treatment and rights of individuals within the CLMIA Act.

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