By Ugur Nedim and Sonia Hickey
Former police officer Daniel Hadley, the son of ‘tough on crime’ radio shock-jock Ray Hadley, has had a drug charge for cocaine possession dismissed on mental health grounds.
Mr Hadley was reported to have been arrested while attempting to purchase cocaine from a drug supplier at a hotel in Rouse Hill earlier this year. He was found to be in possession of 0.79 grams of the drug.
Hadley was charged with possession of a prohibited drug, which carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,200.
He was suspended from duty following an investigation by the police professional standards command. He had been a senior constable who was taking time off to recover from physical injuries.
Mr Hadley resigned from the NSW Police Force in September, after informing his employer he had also been suffering from poor mental health.
At a sentencing hearing in Parramatta Local Court this week, Mr Hadley was granted a section 32 dismissal on the grounds of mental illness, which requires him to comply with a treatment plan for a period of six months.
What is a section 32 application?
An application under section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act enables a defendant who is suffering from a cognitive disorder, mental illness or mental condition to have his or her charges dismissed conditional upon complying with a mental health treatment plan for a period of up to six months.
The section is capable of applying to conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and various addictions, but does not extend to ‘mentally ill persons’.
A mentally ill person is defined by section 14 of the Mental Health Act 2007 as one who is suffering from mental illness in circumstances where there are reasonable grounds to believe that care, treatment or control is necessary to protect themselves or others from serious harm.
In order to mount a successful section 32 application, a report will need to be obtained from an appropriate mental health care professional which provides a background, identifies a relevant mental health condition and sets out the proposed treatment plan.
Criminal defence lawyers will often use that report as the basis upon which to prepare written submissions that are handed-up in support of the application.
For a section 32 application to be successful, the court will need to be persuaded of three things:
- That the defendant suffers from a cognitive disorder, mental illness or mental condition. This is known as the ‘first limb’,
- That it is more appropriate for the court to dismiss the charge and discharge the defendant pursuant to a mental health treatment plan, then to otherwise punish him or her in accordance with the law. This is called the ‘second limb’ and requires the court to weigh up the community interest in the purposes of punishment – including retribution and deterrence – against the public interest of diverting the defendant away from the criminal justice system, and
- That there is an appropriate treatment plan.
If all the boxes are ticked, the court will be able to dismiss the case conditional upon the defendant entering and complying with the proposed treatment plan.
If the defendant fails to comply with the plan, he or she may be brought back before the court to be dealt with in accordance with the general law.
In some ways, a successful section 32 application is preferable to other types of non-conviction orders such as section 10(1)(a) dismissals, conditional release orders without convictions and section 10(1)(c) bonds which are conditional upon entering intervention programs, because unlike those orders a section 32 does not come with a ‘finding of guilt.
Back to Mr Hadley…
Mr Hadley was found to have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder arising from his employment as a police officer.
The Magistrate remarked that his mental health was “partially relevant to the circumstances of his offending” and found that it was more appropriate to divert him from the criminal justice system by ordering the proposed treatment plan, that to otherwise punish him.