Mental Health Issues on Plea

A suffered from serious psychiatric illness (with diagnoses ranging from bi-polar disorder to schizophrenia). He was at his home when a man passed by in the street and began antagonising the family dog after it began barking. A’s sister went outside to see what was going on and the man refused to leave and commenced swearing at her and throwing trash and bottles at her and the dog. A’s sister called for help and A and other unknown men from the area attended.

What is alleged to have occured?
A got into an argument with the man and punched him. The other men then joined in and kicked and punched the man. One of the other men assaulted the victim with a stick of some kind. As a result of the assault the man sustained serious injuries.

A was charged with:

  • Affray
  • Intentionally Cause Serious Injury

A was not taking his medication at the time and had been smoking marijuana which worsened his symptoms. A was charged and remanded in custody for a period of 3 months. During the 3 months, after initial problems, he began to receive psychiatric treatment and his condition stabilised. He was eventually released on bail.

What happened at court?
We represented the client at the Melbourne County Court. We appeared on the plea and made extensive submissions on the role of A’s mental illness in the offending and the impact it should have on sentencing. The submissions included that there was a causal link between A’s condition and the offending especially in the circumstances of his cessation of medication and the return of his psychiatric symptoms.

The fact that his illness contributed significantly to the offending meant that his ability to exercise appropriate judgment and think clearly was impaired. Ultimately these circumstances meant that:

  1. A’s moral culpability was diminished,
  2. He was an unsuitable vehicle for general deterrence and the illness
  3. The role that specific deterrence would play in the sentence was moderated
  4. A sanction with rehabilitative purposes was more appropriate.

What was the result?
A was sentenced to 90 days imprisonment (the time already spent on remand) and an 18 month Community Based Order with special conditions to:

  1. Undergo assessment and treatment for drug and alcohol addiction
  2. Submit to medical / psychological / psychiatric treatment as directed
  3. Be under the supervision of a Community Corrections Officer
  4. Undergo assessment for programs to reduce re-offending.
DISCLAIMER: This is a real case study of an actual case from our files. Details pertaining to the client have been changed to protect their privacy. The sentence imposed and the charge have not been altered. These case studies are published to demonstrate real outcomes and give an indication of possible tariffs in Court. We do not guarantee a similar case on these charges will get the same result. Please note that we post results at our discretion, therefore while many case studies are average results, others are notable for their exceptional outcomes. PUBLISHED 25/02/2013