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Call for Disability Justice Strategy

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Call for Disability Justice Strategy

The Australian Human Rights Commission has called on all States and Territories to introduce a disability justice strategy after a new report finds people with disability are not treated equally in the criminal justice system.

The Commission says the report Equal before the law: Towards disability justice strategies is the culmination of extensive consultations held last year with victims, perpetrators, witnesses, disability advocates, policy makers and criminal justice workers.

The Commission found that equality before the law is a wide-spread problem for people with disabilities, and in some cases, the injustice experienced has been severe.

"I am very concerned that at least 20-30 people with disabilities are detained in jails because they were found unfit to plead," Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said.

"Denying people appropriate accommodation, and the support needed to return to the community, is nothing short of a breach of human rights."

Commissioner Innes has called on all states and territories, as well as the Commonwealth, to introduce an holistic, over-arching disability justice strategy which would improve the lives of people with disabilities and save the community money through diversion and support.

"It is a basic human right for all Australians to be able to access the criminal justice system equally, but as I have discovered, dignity, respect, safety and support are all too often missing when people with disabilities are trying to access justice," he said.

The consultation process revealed:

  • Inability to access effective justice compounds disadvantages experienced by people with disabilities.
  • Many people with disabilities are left without protection and at risk of ongoing violence.
  • People with disabilities experience a relatively high risk of being jailed and are then likely to have repeated contact with the criminal justice system.
  • Many offenders with disability have themselves been victims of violence and this had not been responded to appropriately, contributing to a cycle of offending.
  • There is widespread difficulty identifying disability and responding to it appropriately.
  • Necessary supports and adjustments are not provided because the need is not recognised.
  • When a person's disability is identified, necessary modifications and supports are frequently not provided.
  • People with disabilities are not being heard because of perceptions they are unreliable, not credible or incapable of being witnesses.
  • Erroneous assessments are being made about the legal competence of people with disabilities.
  • Styles of communication and questioning techniques used by police, lawyers, courts and custodial officers can confuse a person with disability.
  • Appropriate diversionary measures are underutilised, not available or not effective due to lack of appropriate supports and services.
  • People with disabilities are less likely to get bail and more likely to breach bail because they have not understood the bail conditions

References and further information

This article was originally produced by ProBono Australia.

 

To view the rest of the article visit the ProBono Australia website http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2014/02/call-disability-justice-strategy

 

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