Section 14- Mental Health Applications in NSW

Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Act 2020 (NSW), aims to divert those with mental health issues away from the criminal justice system towards getting the help they need. The provision allows a person to avoid a criminal record or even having to be put through a trial, provided they meet certain criteria. 

The criteria include: 

Section 14 Applications

These applications allow our defendant who has a mental health impairment or cognitive impairment to undertake a treatment program (which may include seeing a psychologist/psychiatrist on a regular basis) for up to 12 months. 

This allows the person to avoid a criminal record or avoid a finding of guilt of the charges. 

A ‘section 14 application’ is made under section 14 of the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensics Provisions Act 2020. 

It is an application for the charges brought against you to be dismissed on the condition that you want to take a mental health treatment plan, which can last for up to 12 months.

The court adjourned your case to another date in order to allow you to complete your treatment which, if successfully completed, will normally result in the case against you being dismissed.

If you wish to speak to a Mental Health Section 14 Application Lawyer, call Criminal Lawyers Sydney on our 24-hour dedicated phone line 0449 593 845 and speak with an experienced senior lawyer to arrange your free first consultation.

Do You Get a Criminal Record If Matter Is Dealt with Under Section 14?

A successful section 14 application means you avoid a criminal record and also avoid a finding that you were guilty of the charges brought against you. 

What Do You Need to Establish in Court?

You will need to be able to persuade to the court that;

1. You have a mental health impairment or cognitive impairment, and 

2. It is more in appropriate to deal with your matter under the section then otherwise in accordance with the normal criminal law

Mental Health Impairment Means;

1. You have a temporary or ongoing disturbance of thought, mood, volition, perception or memory,

2. Your disturbance is significant for clinical diagnostic purposes, and

3. Your disturbance impairs your emotional well-being, judgement or behaviour.

Mental health impairment includes, but not limited:

  • Anxiety disorder,
  • Affective disorder, including clinical depression and bipolar disorder,
  • Psychotic disorder, and 
  • Substance induced mental disorder that is not temporary.

Mental health impairment does not extend to: 

  • The temporary effect of ingesting a substance, or 
  • A substance use disorder.

Cognitive Impairment Means:

1. You have an ongoing impairment in adaptive functioning

2. Your impairment relates to comprehension, reason, judgement, learning or memory, and

3. Your impairment results from damage to, or dysfunction, development delay or deterioration of your brain or mind.

Cognitive impairment arises from: 

  • Intellectual disability,
  • Borderline intellectual functioning,
  • Dementia,
  • Acquired brain injury,
  • Drug or alcohol related brain damage, including foetal alcohol spectrum disorder,
  • Autism spectrum disorder.

Mental Health Treatment Plan

Section 14 application should contain a report from a mental health professional such as; psychologist or a psychiatrist containing mental health treatment or support plan. 

These include, but are not limited:

  • Consulting your treating psychologist or psychiatrist on a regular basis, or
  • Engaging in therapy, such as

What Does Court Determine During Section 14 Application?

1. The nature of your mental health impairment or cognitive impairment,

2. The nature, seriousness and circumstances of the alleged offence,

3. Any relevant change to your circumstances since the alleged offence

4. Your criminal history,

5. Whether you have previously received an order under section 14 or an equivalent section,

6. Whether a treatment plan has been prepared,

7. Whether you are a danger to yourself, any alleged victim or a member of the public, and 

8. Any other relevant factors 

To discuss if you or someone you know fits the criteria above, call our Mental Health Lawyer Sydney office on our 24-hour dedicated phone line 0449 593 845 and speak to our Section 14 Mental Health Lawyer.

Section 14 Orders That a Court Can Make 

The magistrate may order that your charges are dismissed and you are discharged;

1. Into the care of a responsible person conditionally or unconditionally,

2. Conditionally upon attending on a person already placed for treatment, or

3. Unconditionally.

The order will normally come with a condition that you comply with a mental health treatment plan. 

‘Responsible Person’

A responsible person may be a health professional such as a treating psychologist, psychiatrist, counsellor or, in some cases in general practitioner, parent or family member.

Length of The Treatment Plan 

your mental health treatment plan can last up to 12 months. 

Breach of Section 14 Order

Failure to comply with your treatment plan means you will be brought back before the court in your case will be dealt with the normal way, which can expose you to the prospect of a criminal record and other penalties.

If you wish to speak to a Mental Health Section 14 Application Lawyer Sydney, call Criminal Lawyers Sydney on our 24-hour dedicated phone line 0449 593 845 and speak with an experienced senior lawyer to arrange your free first consultation.