Unfitness to plead and indefinite detention of persons with cognitive impairments: Addressing the legal barriers and creating appropriate alternative supports in the community

University of Melbourne Law School will explore social, legal and policy issues leading to unfitness to plead findings and indefinite detention in Australia for people with cognitive impairments, with a focus on the experiences of Indigenous people. Avoiding determinations of unfitness to plead complies with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which requires that people with disabilities are not denied their right to make decisions because they have a disability.

The research participants are people with cognitive impairments who have been charged with a crime and who may be subject to unfitness to plead processes. They will be provided with a form of advocacy that respects their rights, will and preferences, with an aim to reduce the risk of determinations of unfitness to plead and indefinite detention.

This work aims to develop practical and legal solutions through a combination of building good practice in the community and providing policy and legal analysis. Upon completion of the project a comprehensive report on the results will be produced, detailing a flexible supported decision-making model for the criminal justice system that is sustainable and can be used as good practice in other jurisdictions.

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