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In July 2012, Richard Lawson, from Lawson Legal, attended a seminar pertaining to diversion programs, offered at the Central Law Courts in Perth, applicable to Perth criminal lawyers.

The objectives of diversion programs are to:

  • reduce the rate of imprisonment; and
  • reduce the level of recidivism within Western Australia.

The seminar explored the role and function of the established Drug Court, including the Pre-sentence Opportunity Program (POP) and the Supervised Treatment Intervention Regime (STIR).

Recently, the latest diversion program to be implemented is the Intellectual Disability Diversion Program (IDDP).  The aim of this program is to better manage adult offenders with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairments who are interfacing with the criminal justice system in WA.  Cognitive impairments may result from brain injuries or chemical brain damage caused by substance abuse.  The participants are not suitable for mainstream court processes or community-based dispositions.

The criteria for acceptance in the IDDP are:

  • the offences need to fall within the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court;
  • the participant must be suffering from an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment;
  • the offender is willing to participate in the program; and
  • the person intends to plead guilty.

The person can be referred to the IDDP from any Magistrates Court in WA.  Magistrates, criminal defence lawyers, prosecutors, police, family or offenders can submit this referral.  During the initial six week assessment period, the IDDP will gather information about the offender from all relevant sources and community agencies.

Participants can remain in the IDDP between six weeks to seven months, depending on their progress and compliance.  Usually, within a six month period, an offender will progress to sentencing.  However, at any time the magistrate or criminal defence counsel can request that the matter be progressed to sentencing earlier.

The Chief Justice of Western Australia, Justice Martin, recently stated he supports the concept of a mental health court but warned that the number of people processed through this program could increase.  There is a danger that mental courts will encourage police and prosecutors to refer cases to the IDDP instead of diverting them away.  Justice Martin further stated what is needed is a pre-court diversion to prevent people entering the criminal justice system.

As a Perth criminal lawyer, it is a welcome initiative to have diversion programs available to offenders.  I am sure that most criminal lawyers would welcome pre-court diversion as a means to stop certain offenders from entering the criminal justice system in WA.

Should you, or anyone you know, need any help in relation to information on offenders with intellectual disabilities, or any other criminal matters, contact Lawson Legal for your free initial consultation with one of our experienced criminal lawyers.