Opposition calls for greater scrutiny of mentally impaired accused law reforms 

Feb 21, 2023 | State News, Tjorn Sibma MLC

The Opposition is urging the McGowan Labor Government to stop treating Parliament as a rubber stamp as it seeks to rush the most significant changes to the state’s mentally impaired accused laws in three decades through the Legislative Assembly in three days. 

The Opposition Alliance understands the need to reform the present Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 1996, as the Liberal National Alliance Government initiated a review of the Act in 2014, which included a full public consultation process, and delivered a final report in 2016. 

Shadow Justice Minister Tjorn Sibma said the reforms are inherently complex and the government’s rush to push them through in three days was another unfortunate attempt to evade scrutiny. 

“This Bill is over 400 clauses long and represents a significant change in the criminal law so it is essential that all substantial measures are forensically scrutinised by both chambers of Parliament and in parliamentary committee,” Mr Sibma said. 

“The community cannot risk the Government getting this law wrong.” 

Mr Sibma said it was a foundational principle of our criminal justice system that all people are given equal treatment under the law, and that procedural fairness must also apply to those persons with a mental impairment facing criminal charges. 

The Bill proposes to introduce a new ‘special proceeding’ process to constituted by a judge or magistrate alone, which will test evidence about accusations levelled against people found unfit to stand trial and make findings. 

Additionally, the duration of custody orders for those “found to have committed an offence” will be limited – meaning an end to indefinite custody; a new Mental Impairment Review Tribunal with powers to release offenders from custody and vary conditions of supervision orders; and the transfer of mentally impaired offenders into and out of the state will be facilitated. 

“The enormous scale and scope of these proposed changes elevates the need to ensure that the safety and security of the community remains our primary consideration,” Mr Sibma said. 

“While I acknowledge that the Attorney- General’s claims that community safety is his ‘paramount’ concern, we cannot just take Mr Quigley’s word for it, especially when the implementation of these changes will take place away from the Parliament’s oversight. 

“The Opposition intends to debate the Bill constructively and responsibly and therefore cautions the Government against abusing its majority just because it can.”