Working Alongside People with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities

Parents campaign for Queensland magistrates to be given power to assess mental impairments

3rd September 2014 ABC News online


by John Stewart


The parents of a mentally impaired woman who was convicted of 15 shoplifting charges say Queensland's laws need to be changed to give magistrates the power to assess whether a person is fit to plead.

John and Collein Avery, from Redcliffe, say their daughter has an IQ in the lowest 1 per cent of the population, but the local magistrate does not have the option to have her mental capacity assessed.

"They keep on returning to the Magistrates Court on summary, or simple matters and in the end the magistrate has exhausted all sanction available to him, so he throws his arms up in the air and says I have to incarcerate you, you have to learn a lesson," Collein Avery said.

Melisa Avery was charged with stealing post cards and small grocery items while living in a group home in Toowoomba and was held overnight in prison and threatened with custodial sentences.

In Queensland, magistrates do not have the option of having people assessed for intellectual impairment unless they commit an indictable offence and are sent to higher courts.

Those who commit minor offences are not assessed and can be sent to jail if they continue to re-offend.

Collein Avery says it is time for the laws to be changed.

"I've noticed over recent weeks, there have been amendments to the Queensland Parliament for people who loot after a natural disaster, for animal cruelty and for people who fix sporting events," she said.

"We do support those amendments but we need some moral leadership as well. Our most vulnerable members of society need something to be done for them."

Queensland's courts worst for the mentally impaired: expert

La Trobe University's head of law Patrick Keyzer says Queensland's magistrate's courts are the worst in Australia for dealing with mentally impaired people...


Full article at: