Supporting justice – The role of disability services in addressing the criminalisation of intellectual disability

Mr Jim Simpson1, Mr Justen Thomas1

1Council For Intellectual Disability, Surry Hills, Australia

The disadvantage experienced by people with intellectual disability in the criminal justice system is well established. While the justice system needs to provide reasonable accommodation, people with intellectual disability also need disability support if they are to get fair treatment by the police and courts and reasonable opportunities to avoid offending and reoffending.

This presentation will analyse the justice related disability supports that have become available in NSW over the last 20 years, in particulars the Community Justice Program which provided tailored disability support to people with serious histories of offending, the Justice Advocacy Service which has provided support in police interviews and in courts, and the Cognitive Impairment Diversion Program which provided short term intensive support into human services for people facing charges in the Local Courts.

Challenges to maintaining adequate and appropriate supports with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be identified. These include the National Disability Insurance Agency taking a narrower view of its role than did the Community Justice Program, dispersal of professional expertise and the lack of a provider of last resort.
A comparison will be made with Victoria where specialist disability offender services have been maintained despite NDIS implementation.

Recommendations will be outlined for actions by the Australian and NSW Governments to maintain and enhance current systems.


Justen Thomas has experienced the challenges facing people with intellectual disability in the criminal justice system. He has spoken on these issues at the Disability Royal Commission.

Jim Simpson is a lawyer who has researched and advocated for 35 years on the needs of offenders with intellectual disability.