Psychiatric assessment reforms pass State Parliament

Legislative reforms aimed at ensuring the courts have timely access to psychiatric assessments have passed State Parliament.

Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said the move would help reduce the backlog of cases before the courts where matters involving high-risk offenders, and those who are either unwilling or unable to control their sexual instincts, were awaiting psychiatric reports.

“When considering an application to release either a high-risk offender, or an offender who is either unwilling or unable to control their sexual instincts, the courts rely on these assessments to make a responsible, considered finding,” Ms Chapman said.

“Unfortunately, at present, this work is done by forensic psychiatrists on top of their existing workload – which can sometimes lead to lengthy delays in finalising material.”

Attorney-General Chapman said the reforms would reduce the burden on the State’s Forensic Psychiatrists by allowing appropriately qualified and experienced registered psychologists to undertake reports required when courts are considering whether to impose an extended supervision order on a high-risk offender.

The role of assessing offenders who are unwilling or unable to control their sexual instincts will still remain with Forensic Psychiatrists.

“The work undertaken by these psychologists will be under the governance of the clinical director and will allow forensic psychiatrists to focus on those more complex matters requiring their attention,” Ms Chapman said.

Ms Chapman said the Government will continue to pursue any changes that help courts access assessments undertaken by forensic psychiatrists in a timely manner.

“Based on our discussions with the Clinical Director of the Forensic Mental Health Services, we have introduced further changes to help free up our forensic psychiatrists, including the introduction of a new Court Assessment and Diversion model – with additional funding made available to employ an additional psychiatrist to support it,” Ms Chapman said.

“We have also increased the remuneration rate paid to forensic psychiatrists for reports relating to high-risk offenders and those unable to control their sexual instincts.”