The Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association (rffada) is a national not-for-profit health promotion charity dedicated to ensuring that individuals affected prenatally by alcohol have access to diagnostic services, support and multidisciplinary management planning in Australia and that carers and parents are supported with a “no blame no shame” ethos.
On this site you will find a range of support resources and information relating to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, or FASD.
The Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders Association (rffada) Strategic Plan is based on four key priorities.
Volume 5, Issue 39
Review of CLMIA Act - Discussion Paper released
A LONG awaited review of the Criminal Law Mentally Impaired Accused Act (the Act) has formally commenced with the Attorney General releasing his Discussion Paper yesterday.
The Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) welcomes the release of the Discussion Paper and is pleased the opportunity for input is finally available.
The paper queries whether custody orders should be mandatory, whether Schedule 1 should be abolished or amended, whether the Act needs a statement of objects and principles, and whether the currently indefinite length of custody orders should be limited.
While pleased these issues have been raised, they should not be subject to debate. Changes must occur to ensure people are not detained under custody orders for longer than they would have been, were they convicted of the offence. Reform must enable the judiciary to make the most appropriate order in the circumstances - the full range of sentencing options available to those without disability or mental illness should be available.
While important processes, such as a right to appear before the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board and a right to appeal the decisions made, are raised, the Discussion Paper does not go far enough in identifying the need to make the Board’s processes more transparent. People currently have no right to legal representation, no right to appeal or to request a review, and no right to reasons for a decision.
Also canvassed is whether specific provisions need to be made for children and young people.
The paper lacks consideration of some matters of utmost importance. People with lived experience and advocates have long called for change to the ‘executive model’ of decision making, which places release and leave of absence decisions in the hands of the Governor on advice of the Attorney General and the Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board. These decisions are not subject to review, nor appeal. It would be more appropriate if these decisions were made by an independent body, such as the courts.
Also missing from the Discussion Paper is a rights orientation, and legislating to enable the accused to the treatment, support and advocacy needs they and their families may need.
What the paper doesn’t touch on is the need for appropriate services and support for people with mental illness under the Act, but WAAMH is hopeful that these will be identified and funded through the forthcoming Ten Year Mental Health Plan.
WAAMH strongly encourages people with lived experience and the mental health sector to make a submission to the Review.
Submissions close on 12 noon, Friday 12 December 2014.
To support you in making a submission, WAAMH is also holding a forum, ‘Not guilty due to unsound mind: Achieving reform of the Criminal Law Mentally Impaired Accused Act’ on 27th October at The Rise, Maylands. Invitations will be sent out soon.
WAAMH is also developing a paper on reforms to the Act, which we will consult you about, and which may assist you in making a submission.
The Discussion paper is available here: http://www.department.dotag.wa.gov.au/R/review_of_the_criminal_law_mentally_impaired_accused_act_1996.aspx
The Attorney General’s media release can be found here: http://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/pages/StatementDetails.aspx?listName=StatementsBarnett&StatId=8646
WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin has said it is not appropriate for people with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) to be indefinitely locked up under laws for the mentally impaired charged with crimes.
His comments came as Attorney-General Michael Mischin considered a request from disability advocates for a review of the case of an Aboriginal man held in prison for almost 11 years without conviction.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons and is known as Jason, was charged with unlawfully killing his 12-year-old cousin in a car crash in 2003, but deemed mentally unfit to stand trial due to brain damage from solvent abuse.
One third of the 30-40 mentally impaired people indefinitely detained in the state's jails are Indigenous, according to the WA Aboriginal Legal Service.
ALS director of legal services Peter Collins has warned that number will rapidly increase because of the prevalence of foetal alcohol spectrum disorders in Aboriginal communities, which he believed was largely undiagnosed.
Justice Martin renewed his support for supervised release orders for people deemed unfit to plead and for a regular review of their status by the courts.
He said Aboriginal people were over-represented among people found unfit to plead and it was likely a significant portion suffered from FASD.
The options for the courts were limited, he said.
Locking them up for the rest of their life is not, I think, an appropriate outcome for people who suffer from a condition which was none of their doing, but comes about because of an excessive consumption of alcohol by their mother before they were born.
Chief Justice Wayne Martin
"We've got the choice between two extreme options. One is indefinite detention and the other is unconditional release," Justice Martin said.
A generation of young people with FASD was already coming through the courts.
"Locking them up for the rest of their life is not, I think, an appropriate outcome for people who suffer from a condition which was none of their doing, but comes about because of an excessive consumption of alcohol by their mother before they were born," he said.
FASDs involve a range of physical, neurological, behavioural, learning and cognitive disabilities caused by a mother's excessive drinking during pregnancy.
New laws needed: chief justice
Justice Martin said the problem with FASD was it could not be treated.
Instead affected people could be taught techniques to reduce the risk they posed to the community and could be placed in supervised, safe environments, he said.
The ALS and disability advocates, including Developmental Disability WA and First Peoples Disability Network, have called on the WA Government to allow the courts to issue supervised release orders for the mentally impaired.
Justice Martin, who has previously supported this measure, stressed it was up to legislators to introduce new laws.
He said judges and magistrates would find it helpful if there were more options, such as supervised release orders subject to mandatory participation in support programs and drug testing.
"What we're looking for, I think in cases like this, is a solution which best protects the community without unnecessarily interfering with somebody's liberty, having regard to the fact that it's been found they're not fit to undergo the trial process, so they're entitled to the presumption of innocence," Justice Martin said.
The problem with indefinite detention was that people were often jailed for longer periods than they would have been if convicted, he said.
Reviews of whether a mentally impaired accused person remains unfit to plead or stand trial are carried out by the Mental Impaired Accused Board.
Justice Martin supported calls by the ALS for this to change by allowing the same court which made the initial ruling to carry out the review.
There would be finite detention orders and regular two-yearly reviews in open court, where a person was provided with legal representation.
"I think it creates safeguards against somebody, as it were, being detained for a very long period as a result of decisions made by administrative officials, not by courts," he said.
The Mentally Impaired Accused Act is being reviewed and Mr Mischin has indicated people found mentally unfit to plead would be placed in disability justice centres.
Peggy Oba and her family organisation The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Information Network have made a welcome donation to the rffada. Thank you Peggy and family, this will mean printed brochures and posters to distribute to organisations and additional support for our parents and carers.
If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant over the holiday season, dont drink. The consequences could be far more than you could ever imagine.
For a healthy baby, no alcohol while pregnant is safest!
Information on this site from volunteers of the rffada is based on experience and is not made by medical personnel unless stated as such. Additionally,we advise that the information contained in ths site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing health care professional/s.