• Marlon Noble is calling for law reform for cognitively impaired people. (NITV News)
Study highlights the need for greater understanding of the needs of the disabled in the criminal justice system.
By
Jarni Blakkarly

12 Sep 2017 - 1:35 PM  UPDATED 12 Sep 2017 - 6:31 PM

new report from Melbourne University’s Social Equity Institute is highlighting the flaws in unfit to stand trial laws.

Dr Piers Gooding from Melbourne University said more disability support workers are needed at every stage of the criminal justice system to support those with cognitive disabilities.

He said changes are desperately needed to ensure cases like that of Marlon Noble’s don’t happen again.

Mr Noble was imprisoned for ten years without trial after being found unfit to plead by the courts on charges of sexual assault against two teenage girls.

Even after all the allegations against Mr Noble were dropped in 2010, he still wasn’t released from prison until 2012.

“(This) is really not fair…you're locking people up for nothing, throw away the key for nothing,” Mr Noble told NITV News at the launch of the Melbourne University report.

Dr Gooding said the impacts of current unfit to stand trial laws are widespread.

“Undoubtedly there are hundreds of people across Australia being detained indefinitely at present. But we also know that lawyers are reporting that they would encourage their clients to plead guilty rather than be found unfit to stand trial,” Dr Gooding told NITV News.

And Dr Gooding said the issue disproportionately affected Indigenous Australians.

"Partly that's a result of Indigenous people being more likely to interact with the criminal justice system. They are also more likely to have disabilities. So there is a double layer of disadvantage,” he said.

As a part of the report Melbourne University’s Social Equity Institute ran a trial program for six months locating disability support workers at legal services to provide support.

“What we found was that strategic support at an early stage of a person with a disabilities interaction with the criminal justice system can solve a lot of the problems which we see time and again,” Dr Gooding said.  

 

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