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Royal Commission to focus on people with disability and their experiences in the criminal justice system

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability has released the Criminal justice system issues paper – the latest in a series of publications about key areas of inquiry.

The Chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said the issues papers are designed to invite submissions and contributions from people with disability, as well as their families, advocates and experts, to help inform the Royal Commission.

‘We have been hearing that authorities, such as police and prosecutors, often do not consider violence and abuse directed at people with disability to be crimes worthy of investigation or matters that can be prosecuted successfully. We want to hear about these experiences.’

‘We are seeking to understand better the problems people with disability face when they are brought into contact with the criminal justice system, whether as victims of crime, accused persons or witnesses,’ said the Chair.

The Criminal Justice System issues paper refers to evidence that people with disability, including children and young people, are over-represented across the criminal justice systems in Australia and are at heightened risk of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.  

‘We want to hear about why people with disability, are coming into contact with the criminal justice system at disproportionately high rates.

‘There is a lack of precise information about the number of First Nations people with disability in custody but the available data suggests that First Nations people with disability are about 14 times more likely to be imprisoned than the general population. The Commission wants to understand what accounts for this dreadful state of affairs, and what can be done to change the situation,’ said the Chair.

The issues paper is also calling for responses about prisons and forensic mental health facilities where forced treatment, seclusion (solitary confinement) and other restrictive practices, such as physical, chemical and mechanical restraints may be used.