The Victorian Law Reform Commission has published its report on the review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (CMIA).
The report contains 107 recommendations for legislative reform to ensure the CMIA operates justly, effectively and consistently with its underlying principles. The key recommendations are:
- that a set of statutory guiding principles be introduced into the CMIA, including specialised principles for children and young people and to avoid unreasonable delay in dealing with them;
- that the criteria for determining unfitness to stand trial be revised and measures introduced to optimise the fitness of accused to stand trial;
- that a definition of mental impairment be introduced into the CMIA;
- that the application of the CMIA be further extended in the Magistrates’ Court and Children’s Court;
- that a judge or magistrate, rather than a jury, determine unfitness to stand trial and a jury, rather than a judge, determine criminal responsibility in all higher court cases where the defence of mental impairment is raised;
- that changes be made to the directions given to a jury in determinations of criminal responsibility under the CMIA;
- that the Director of Public Prosecutions be the party responsible for representing the community’s interests in CMIA hearings, instead of the Attorney-General;
- that measures be introduced to improve the support provided to, and acknowledgment of, victims and family members in CMIA matters;
- that changes be made to the framework governing review of supervision orders, including replacement of the current nominal term system by a system of five-year progress reviews and revision of the tests for endangerment consistent with modern risk assessment principles;
- that a new youth forensic facility for treating and supervising young people and a new medium-secure forensic mental health hospital be established;
- that measures be introduced to address barriers to effective management and supervision, and legislative changes be made to improve how the system of supervision operates for people with an intellectual disability or other cognitive impairment.
As part of the review, the Commission consulted with a range of people with professional and personal experience of the CMIA. The Commission conducted 55 consultation meetings and 34 written submissions were received, available on the Commission's website. The report was tabled in Victorian Parliament on 21 August 2014.