A number of Disability Royal Commission hearings so far have looked into issues related to the criminal justice system.
If you’re not sure about some of the language being used, see if it’s in our Jargon Buster. Specific pages that might come in handy:
We’ve published several community member guest blogs by people with disability about their experiences with the criminal justice system:
- “First Nations People With Disability And The Criminal Justice System” – Part 1 and Part 2
- “My experiences have taught me not to trust the police”
You can find out more about related past hearings below – or skip down to learn more about where we stand on criminal justice.
There were also criminal justice issues discussed during part of the hearing on abuse in public places.
The Disability Royal Commission held Public hearing 11 on “the experiences of people with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system” in Brisbane from Tuesday 16 to Thursday 25 February, 2021. You can find a transcript, video with Auslan interpretation and various documents mentioned in the hearing on the official Disability Royal Commission website.
You can check out our Twitter commentary here: Tuesday 16, Wednesday 17, Thursday 18, Friday 19, Monday 22, Tuesday 23, Wednesday 24, Thursday 25 (you may occasionally need to click or tap the final tweet shown to see the rest of the thread).
The Royal Commission held a follow-up public hearing, Public hearing 15, in Brisbane on Thursday 12 & Friday 13 August 2021 to ask government officials about the interface between the criminal justice system and the NDIS, and how it affects people with cognitive disability. You can find a transcript, video with Auslan interpretation and various documents mentioned in the hearing on the official Disability Royal Commission website.
Public hearing 27 looked into conditions in detention in the criminal justice system from 19 – 23 September 2022, excluding the public holiday on 22 September. The final day of the hearing will be held virtually on 6 October. Transcripts, video with Auslan interpretation and various documents mentioned in the hearing will be available shortly on the official Disability Royal Commission website.
You can check out our Twitter commentary here: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and the extra day on October 6. You may occasionally need to click or tap the final tweet shown to see the rest of the thread.
PWDA supports the recommendations of the United Nations Convention on the Human rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), which Australia is a signatory to. Here are some relevant CRPD articles:
People with disability have negative experiences with the criminal justice system both as victims and witnesses of crime, and as accused and convicted offenders.
Incidents of violence and abuse against people with disability are often not considered crimes by police and lawyers, meaning that we don’t have access to justice and redress.
This happens for many reasons, like stigma against people with disability, people with disability not being believed when we speak up against crimes committed against us, a lack of disability awareness in our justice systems and failure to acknowledge people with disability as reliable witnesses.
We have heard during many Royal Commission hearings about support workers who abuse, neglect, assault and exploit someone with disability being disciplined “in house” by service providers, when the same action against anybody else would be considered a crime.
People with disability are more likely to experience multiple episodes of abuse because perpetrators are unlikely to be caught or punished. We are less likely to get help from domestic and family violence services because they don’t get funding for accessibility work. This particularly affects women and children with disability, but all people with disability are more likely to be targets of domestic and family violence.
People with psychosocial and/or cognitive impairment are vastly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. We are three to nine times more likely to be imprisoned than people without disability.
At Public Hearing 11, Dr Mellifont, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, asked:
“Is the justice system being used as a de facto disability service, one that proceeds by punitive rather than therapeutic measures?”
The evidence says yes. Instead of funding support and early intervention for people whose disability affects their behaviour, our government leaves them to struggle until they end up breaking the law, and then locks them up and forgets about them.
Australian Human Rights Commission: Equal before the law – Towards Disability Justice Strategies, 2014
PWDA’s Engage-In project has produced a research report with Sydney University on effective advocacy approaches to help people in institutional settings like prisons get access to NDIS and other support.
Disability Royal Commission Issues Papers:
The Royal Commission has also published a research report on police responses to people with disability, available with Easy Read and Auslan translations. Plus, read our blog post summarising the report.
The DRC’s latest report looks at people with disability transitioning from prison and their pathways into homelessness.