6 June 2018

MEDIA RELEASE

A review of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal is a positive move in the treatment of people with mental illness, according to Mental Health Commission of NSW.

The Review of the Operation of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in Respect to Forensic Patients was released today by the NSW Government.

The Review, requested by Minister for Mental Health, the Hon. Tanya Davies MP, was led by former Supreme Court Judge the Hon Anthony Whealy QC.

It examined the Tribunal’s practices regarding people found by a court to be unfit to be tried or found not guilty by reason of mental illness.

In response to the Review, the NSW Government has today announced:

  • $1.6 million to establish a specialist victims support service to provide counselling, crisis support, case management and advocacy services to victims, from early in the justice process
  • Introduction of victims impact statements at the Mental Health Review Tribunal
  • Changes will be made to the language used in verdicts involving forensic patients.

NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey said the recommendations of the Review balanced the needs of people with mental illness with the impact of crime on victims and the safety of the community.

“The Commission applauds the establishment of a specialist victims support service as well as the introduction of victim impact statements.

“The circumstances that bring someone before the Mental Health Review Tribunal as a forensic patient are typically traumatic and tragic for everyone involved - including families, local communities and the person living with mental illness or cognitive impairment,” Ms Lourey said.

“Decisions by the Tribunal about the detention, leave and release of forensic patients will always be challenging and require a sensitive and tailored response to each case.

“The Commission believes the legislation that underpins how the Tribunal makes its decisions generally works well, balancing the needs and rights of the community to be safe, with the needs and rights of the people with mental illness to get treatment and recover.

“The recommendations from this Review will help to strengthen the focus on community safety and the rights of victims.”

The changes announced by the NSW Government implement many of the recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission’s reports on people with cognitive and mental health impairment in the criminal justice system. They are also informed by the recommendations in the Review. 

Any community members who are concerned about their own or a loved one’s mental health are encouraged to speak with trusted support services such as a family GP or school counsellor.

Alternatively, find local services via Wayahead’s NSW Mental Health Service Directory or call one of the following support lines:

NSW Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

ENDS

Media enquiries:
Pauline Sorbello | E: Pauline.sorbello@mhc.nsw.gov.au | P: 02 9859 5226 | M: 0414 894 341

About the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales
The Mental Health Commission of NSW was established under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 and came into operation on 1 July 2012. The Commission is an independent statutory authority established with the purpose of monitoring, reviewing and improving the mental health system and the mental health and wellbeing of the people of NSW. In all its work the Commission aims to reflect the experience of people who live with mental illness, their families and carers.

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Last updated: 7 June 2018