People in Penrith with a cognitive impairment who come in contact with the criminal justice system will receive a significant boost following the NSW Government’s $28 million investment in the Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) and a nation-leading court-based diversion program.
Stuart Ayres MP, Member for Penrith said this funding will build on the positive independent evaluation of the JAS, which found that the program improved access to justice, supported people with cognitive impairment to exercise their rights and helped drive down re-offending.
“Navigating the criminal justice system can be a sometimes overwhelming experience for almost anyone, and particularly for people with a cognitive impairment,” Stuart Ayres said.
“JAS has provided critical support in more than 4,500 cases for victims, witnesses, suspects and defendants since July 2019, and this funding will ensure more people in Penrith with a cognitive impairment can get the help they need.
“As Penrith Court is one of NSW’s busiest courts, the JAS will be extended to this location.”
Through a network of volunteers and advocates JAS helps people with a cognitive impairment by providing a support person to accompany them to the police station, court and legal appointments. Other services include:
- supporting victims and witnesses with a cognitive impairment to report a crime to police
- providing a 24-hour service for people with cognitive impairment who are in police custody
- training to help identify people in the justice system with cognitive impairment
- offering informal supports to help refer people with cognitive impairment into relevant care.
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the new diversion services will be delivered at six of NSW’s busiest Local Courts and provide a referral from JAS for defendants with cognitive impairment accused of low-level offences who need diversion into treatment and support.
“Together, these services will provide holistic, end-to-end support for people with a cognitive impairment – from their first point of contact with police to the resolution of their court matter. Early intervention and treatment in these cases has been shown to reduce the risk of re-offending and improve community safety.”
Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Alister Henskens said this additional funding will make a significant difference for people with cognitive impairment.
“This program will help people with disability access the supports they require in the community by connecting them with the mainstream service system and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS),” Mr Henskens said.
For defendants with cognitive impairment this new service will help them access a cognitive assessment, develop tailored support plans, connect them with relevant services like the NDIS and provide accurate and relevant information to assist magistrates with their decision making.