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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Mental illness over-represented?

Edit: The SAC did publish something on their website on 6th July about mental illness in sentencing appeals, but really it was just a one page overview with a link back to the Sentence Appeals in Victoria Statistical Research Report that it had released back in March.

It's possible that the information is in there in tabular form and I can't see it (the report is 154 pages) but a measure of the number of appeals premised on Verdins principles tells us nothing about how frequently the principles are relied on in mitigation at first instance.




This story in the Sunday Age had me looking around the Sentencing Advisory Council's website for information about mental illness and the number of cases it's a factor in.

Apparently some representatives of advocacy groups for people struggling with mental illness have taken exception to the suggestion that mental illness can be a motivating factor in the commission of crime.

I would like to know if anything statistically significant has changed since Verdins' case was decided and the ARC List introduced.

Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything specifically about mental health on the SAC site. (Perhaps it is there - or at the JCV - but I can't find it). There's no shortage of material (like this study by Smith and Trimboli on the BOCSAR website) in public circulation suggesting a strong correlation between mental health issues and repeated involvement with the justice system.

But it appears that little is collectively known about how many Victorian offenders assert that they have a mental illness on their plea, how often this is accepted, and what effect this is having on the sentence they receive.

I predict the SAC will shortly announce a reference into the issue.

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