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Legal profession supports diversionary measures for people with cognitive impairment

  • Written by Law Society of NSW

The NSW Government’s decision to extend funding for an advocacy service that helps people with a cognitive impairment navigate the criminal justice system has been welcomed by the Law Society of NSW.

Attorney General Mark Speakman SC MP has today announced a $28 million investment in the Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) and the establishment of a new court-based diversion program for people with a cognitive impairment.

JAS is a support service to victims, witnesses and defendants with a cognitive impairment which aims to facilitate the client’s ability to exercise their rights and participation in criminal justice processes. Eligible individuals are supported by a support person when they are in contact with police, courts and legal representatives. JAS is available across NSW, including rural, regional and remote areas.

It’s understood the new court based diversion program will build on the supports offered by JAS, providing more targeted assistance for people with cognitive impairment accused of low level offences.

President of the Law Society of NSW, Juliana Warner, said the Law Society has long advocated for increased diversion at all stages of the criminal justice system for people with cognitive impairments.

 “People with cognitive impairment are currently over-represented throughout the criminal justice system,” Ms Warner said.

“We commend the Government for investing in the JAS and providing greater support to people with a cognitive impairment.

“The announcement concerning new court based diversion services at Sydney’s Downing Centre, Parramatta, Blacktown, Penrith, Gosford and Lismore Local Courts is also a positive one and the Law Society looks forward to learning more details about what they will entail, when they become available.

“I am particularly happy to see that the new diversion program will support people with a cognitive impairment who come into contact with the criminal justice system in regional NSW.

“Effective diversion requires offenders to engage with adequately resourced treatment and service providers. Diversion can benefit both the offender and the wider community by addressing the causes of offending and reducing offending behaviour, as well as reducing the costs of imprisonment and hospital readmissions.”
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