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To protect, to rehabilitate and to serve

Court diversion programs

There are certain diversionary programs that deal with specific types of offending, such as drug-related or family and domestic violence offences, which may help keep people out of prison.

Court Assessment and Treatment Service (CATS)

The Department's Court Assessment and Treatment Service (CATS) Senior Community Corrections Officers play a big part in supporting people in Perth's Drug Court. The Drug Court is a solution-focused court for people who have substance use problems and have committed offences.

CATS team members work with adults at the Perth Drug Court.

People who have broken the law because of their drug use can ask to take part in the Drug Court program.

The Senior Community Corrections CATS Officers will see if they are suitable and, if they are placed on a program, team members will support them through the program and keep an eye on how they are going.

The CATS team works closely with the Drug Courts, writing assessment, progress and final sentencing reports.

Offenders who take part in the Drug Court program must:

  • admit they have an illicit substance use problem
  • enter a plea of guilty to all charges
  • be willing to undergo appropriate and agreed evidence based drug treatment, in the community or a residential rehabilitation facility
  • be willing to be supported and supervised by the Drug Court and CATS.

People who successfully finish a Drug Court program may not have to go to prison and may be given a community sentence instead.

Start Court Program

The Mental Health Court Diversion and Support Program offers a solution focused response for individuals experiencing a mental health issue.

Program participants are supervised by a Court while they receive holistic support that endeavours to address the underlying causes of their offending behaviour. This approach aims to:

  • enhance participants’ health and wellbeing
  • improve community safety
  • reduce future contact with the criminal justice system
  • re-engage or link participants with the most appropriate services to help manage their mental health
  • where appropriate, provide an alternative to imprisonment

The Program comprises an adult program, Start Court, and a children’s program, Links. The program is a partnership between the Mental Health Commission and the Department of Justice. Independent consumer and family representatives are involved operationally. The other agencies that contribute to the program are:

  • The Department of Health
  • WA Police
  • Legal Aid WA
  • Outcare Inc. (a Non-Government service provider)
  • Mental Health Law Centre

Start Court (adult program)

Start Court is a Magistrates Court that specialises in dealing with offenders who have mental health issues. It is based within the Central Law Courts in the Perth CBD.

Referrals to Start Court are typically made by Magistrates in general court lists, often at the suggestion of a defence lawyer, family member or the individual him or herself.

Legal Aid duty lawyers can advise and represent people in Magistrates Court and can provide advice on the day about whether a referral to Start Court is appropriate. There is also a dedicated duty lawyer who attends Start Court each day.

Start Court offers a program that combines access to mental health supports and services (including alcohol and other drug support if necessary), with regular appearances before the Start Court Magistrate. The program can take up to six months to complete.

To be eligible to participate, the individual must:

  • have a mental health condition
  • accept that he or she committed the offence(s) that led to the court appearance
  • be eligible for bail.

Participation is strictly voluntary. Successful participation in Start Court may be taken into account for sentencing purposes.

Start Court is operated by a dedicated team that includes a Magistrate, mental health clinicians, community support coordinators, peer support workers, legal representation, Police, and Community Corrections personnel

Intellectual Disability Diversion Program

The Intellectual Disability Diversion Program (IDDP) Court is operated by the Department of Justice, with support and advice from the Department of Communities.

The IDDP Court seeks to address the over-representation of individuals in the adult criminal justice system who may have one or more of the following diagnoses:

  • Intellectual Disability
  • Cognitive Disability
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Acquired brain Injury

The IDDP Court operates at Central Law Courts in the Perth and works with individuals living in the community in order to:

  • Reduce their future contact with the criminal justice system and thereby improve community safety.
  • Increase their access to positive behaviour support with a focus on skill building and goal setting.
  • Identify undiagnosed disability or impairment as well as physical and/or mental health issues.
  • Achieve an outcome in respect of their charge/s that is proportionate, fair and appropriate to the circumstances of the offence and their disability or impairment.

To be eligible to participate the individual must:

  • Have been diagnosed with an ID, CD or ASD by a suitably qualified person, or they are likely to be so diagnosed if assessed by a suitably qualified person.
  • Have entered, or be likely to enter, a plea/pleas of guilty to at least a significant proportion of their magistrate court charges.
  • Be suitable for conditional bail.
  • Consent to take part in in the IDDP Court program.

Adult Community Corrections assesses the suitability of applicants for the program. Applicants may also need to be assessed by an expert such as a psychologist or neuropsychologist, which if required will be ordered by the IDDP Court.

If accepted into the IDDP Court program, Adult Community Corrections will develop a plan in conjunction with the individual, their family and/or carer and, if applicable, guardian, the Department of Communities and any relevant service providers. The individual will be required to attend the IDDP Court as directed by the magistrate to monitor their progress on the program over a period of approximately four to six months.

Progress on the plan will be taken into account by the magistrate when sentencing the individual.

The IDDP Court is operated by a dedicated team that includes a magistrate, Senior Community Corrections Officer, duty lawyer and police prosecutor.

Family Violence Court Lists

Family Violence Court Lists are located in the Perth metropolitan area and focuses on the safety of victims and seeks to address the causal factors of an offender’s violent behaviour.

Family Violence Courts aim to break the cycle of family violence by providing the option of programs to address the offender's violent behaviour before sentencing.

The courts can produce better outcomes for victims of family violence and help reduce the damaging inter-generational and societal effects that family violence causes.

Participating in the Family Violence Court

Offenders are only eligible for the Family Violence Court case management program if they admit to their actions by pleading guilty, which demonstrates a willingness to address their behaviour.

Following a guilty plea, the dedicated Community Corrections Officer conducts further assessment to identify the offender’s level of willingness to address their behaviour and the level of risk that they pose to the victim and community.

This is carried out in a more thorough process of interviewing, harm assessment, case needs assessment and spousal assault risk assessment. Once this is completed, referrals to specialised intervention programs are then carried out.

The success or otherwise of offenders engaged in programs designed to address their behaviour is taken into account by the judiciary when they are sentenced at the completion of the court based regime.

Offenders may enter the Family Violence Court program by either being bailed directly to appear in the dedicated court by police or by being referred to the court upon pleading guilty in the Magistrates Court.

The court process operates on a collaborative case management model involving the Department of Justice, Western Australia Police and Department of Communities (Child Protection and Family Services). 

Geraldton family and domestic violence project

The Department of Justice is working in partnership with the Geraldton Aboriginal community to reduce the incidence of family and domestic violence in the region.

The Barndimalgu court was set up in August 2007 specifically for Aboriginal people in Geraldton to help them break the pattern of domestic and family violence.

When an Aboriginal person is arrested on a domestic violence charge they are sent to the Barndimalgu court. People who plead guilty have an opportunity to do a 20-week program to address their violent behaviour before the final sentence is delivered.

If the person successfully completes the program, they may not have to go to prison and may be given a community sentence instead. This helps the families and the community.

The project is supported by the Geraldton Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA) local justice forum, which provides a link between the Geraldton Aboriginal community and the Department of Justice.

Page last updated: 16-Mar-2021