House of Assembly passes laws to speed up psychiatric assessments in the courts

Legislation aimed at reducing the backlog of psychiatric assessments in South Australia’s court system have passed the House of Assembly.

The new laws, which will now be debated in the Legislative Council, will help to speed up the process of accessing forensic reports and information when dealing with high-risk offenders, and those sex offenders who are either unwilling or unable to control their sexual instincts.

Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said today that she was pleased to see the important piece of legislation pass the first hurdle in becoming law and has urged the Labor Party and crossbench to ensure its swift passage through the Legislative Council.

“Instead of sitting on our hands on this issue, like the Labor Party did while in Government, I ensured we bought all players to the table to come up with a solution to this problem.

“The Marshall Liberal Government’s first priority will always be keeping the community safe, and this legislation will help to do that by ensuring reports can be delivered to the court in a timelier fashion, while still ensuring the same high level of quality advice is prepared.”

The new legislation will enable registered psychologists, under the governance of the clinical director, to provide reports under the Criminal Law (High Risk Offenders) Act for the court to consider when hearing matters involving whether an extended supervision order should be imposed on a high-risk offender.

“Ultimately, this will free up our forensic psychiatrists in the State to finalise more complex reports in a timelier manner,” Ms Chapman said.

In consultation with and on the advice of the Clinical Director of the Forensic Mental Health Services, other changes have been made including:

  • The introduction of a new Court Assessment and Diversion model. Bringing appropriately trained forensic nurses into the new model who, under the supervision of the Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists will divert about 40% of matters into treatment and therefore avoiding delays in court matters that do not require an assessment by psychiatrists.
  • An increase of the remuneration rate currently paid to forensic psychiatrists for the preparation of complex reports relating to high risk offenders and those unable to control their sexual instincts.
  • SA Health has provided significant new funding to employ an additional psychiatrist to support the new forensic court assessment and diversion model.

“It’s important we pass this legislation in the Legislative Council as soon as possible to ensure the backlogs, which were created as a result of the Labor Party’s inaction, are rectified and there are no longer any delays in High Risk Offender cases in the future,” Ms Chapman said.