MHDCD Project

9.1 Legal Issues

The complex and multi-faceted needs of Indigenous people with mental and cognitive impairment create particular legal issues which often manifest in high levels of contact with police, courts and prisons (MacGillivray & Baldry 2013, 23). The law is a blunt and often punitive instrument by which to address the issues facing Indigenous people with mental and cognitive disability (Baldry 2014), and yet as evidenced in the qualitative data gathered for this project, has become the default framework by which to manage those who are perceived as too ‘complex’ or ‘difficult’ to be supported in the community. The key legal issues that emerge for this group in their interactions with police and courts are the result of cumulative problems with service system design and function, and a legacy of colonisation and entrenched disadvantage and discrimination. The ‘offending’ of the majority of Indigenous people with multiple and complex needs who come before the court would not be considered within the gamut of the criminal justice system if they had been properly supported in the community. This should be the blueprint for reform in this area (ADJC 2013; Baldry, Dowse, McCausland & Clarence 2012). For those who still end up in the criminal justice system, energetic and focused court diversion with robust case management support should be available. These strategies would be economically as well as socially beneficial (McCausland et al 2013).

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