Penrith court trial to provide treatment instead of sanctions

Pilot program: Mr Ayres, Mr Speakman and Ms Davies at Penrith court on Monday.
Pilot program: Mr Ayres, Mr Speakman and Ms Davies at Penrith court on Monday.

Defendants with cognitive impairments could be directed into treatment as an alternative to criminal sanctions under a new program being trialed at Penrith Local Court.

Attorney General Mark Speakman, Mulgoa MP and Mental Health Minister Tanya Davies, and Penrith MP and Western Sydney Minister Stuart Ayres today [Monday] announced the Cognitive Impairment Diversion Program would be rolled out at Penrith and Gosford Local Courts.

Under the program, a psychologist or psychiatrist would screen defendants appearing on lower level charges  – or summary offences - to identify those with a cognitive impairment.

Support workers would then identify defendants’ needs and goals and help them access the services of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The program would provide a report to help magistrates decide whether to direct defendants into treatment or support as an alternative to criminal sanctions, Mr Speakman said.

“The pilot program will identify defendants with a cognitive impairment early to help prevent their further contact with the criminal justice system,” he said in a statement.

Mr Ayres welcomed the establishment of the pilot in his electorate.

“The pilot will be crucial to determining what help people with cognitive impairments need to navigate the criminal justice system, to help ensure they don’t end up in trouble with the law again,” Mr Ayres said.

The pilot will be evaluated after 12 months to determine whether the program should be expanded to other locations.