The law contains a range of provisions designed to divert those who are charged with criminal offences away from the criminal justice system and towards treatment.
The most common way to do this is a ‘section 32 application’.
Under section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW), a person suffering from a ‘mental condition’ can bypass the criminal court system in favour of a court-mandated treatment plan through seeing a psychologist on a regular basis for a period of time, usually 6 months.
A ‘mental condition’ is considered treatable through psychological counselling, and is normally less severe than a mental illness, or developmental disability.
Mental conditions can include things like depression, anxiety, acute substance dependency or more severe conditions such as bipolar disorder, anti-social personality disorder and schizophrenia.
A Section 32 can be granted at the start of, or during, any court proceedings if it becomes apparent that you are suffering from a mental condition, or you were suffering from a mental condition at the time of the alleged offence.
The first step is for your lawyer to obtain a report from a Mental Health professional such as a psychologist about you and your mental condition.
It doesn’t matter if you have never seen a psychologist before, a report can still be obtained to assist you with a section 32 application.
There are a number of potential outcomes if a court grants you a section 32, including:
- The magistrate can dismiss the charges altogether and put you on a ‘treatment plan’ without finding you guilty of anything, or
- The magistrate can decide to adjourn your case for a period of time to see how you go with treatment, and then decide whether to dismiss the case after you’ve had some treatment, or
- If you are in custody, the magistrate can grant bail and let you out of custody as long as you get treatment.
If the magistrate decides to use section 32, you will have to comply with a ‘treatment plan’ which can include things like:
- Attending counselling every week,
- Taking prescribed medication, and
- Having your condition and medication reviewed monthly.
If you break the conditions of your section 32, you may be required to go back to court and face your original charges.
Section 32 orders generally last for a maximum period of six months.
The best thing is that there is no ‘finding of guilt’ and no criminal conviction.
They are even better in some ways than ‘section 10s’, because section 10s carry a ‘finding of guilt’.
At Sydney Criminal Lawyers, we are experienced in obtaining Section 32 orders for our clients.
We also believe that you deserve to know exactly how much you will have to pay for legal representation, which is why we offer a fixed fee service for section 32 applications.
Just go to the fixed fees page on this website to see how much the application will cost.
Or call us 24/7 on (02) 9261 8881 to find out more about how we can help you apply for a Section 32 order.