A judge or magistrate may want to know about any health conditions that could affect your client’s ability to comply with court orders, including:
This information might change the sentence that your client serves. It could be the difference between a custodial sentence and staying in the community. It also means that the sentence your clients receive will take their support needs into account.
This page has information on:
Neuropsychological Assessment Need Tool - can help you determine the need for a neuropsychological assessment
The facts – for information on which specialist to approach for a report depending on your client’s diagnosis
Specialist reports – where to request specialist reports
When approaching a specialist or treating practitioner, get them to be clear about how much the report will cost. VLA can only provide extra funding in limited circumstances.
A forensic psychological, psychiatric, neuropsychological or medical report can often play a critical role in translating a client’s support needs to a judicial officer. They help the court make a sentence that takes into account your client's support needs.
Privately funded forensic reports can be expensive. For clients who do not meet the VLA guidelines and do not have funds available for a new report, getting access to an existing report is the next best option. The following strategies may help.
If a client has an existing diagnosis, or has had reports prepared in the past, these reports should have been stored with the General Practitioner (GP) or treating doctor.
Many GPs will give you access to medical reports with the client’s signed consent. This is the most straightforward way to get access to medical reports, including discharge and hospital records.
Your client’s hospital discharge paperwork will have been forwarded to their nominated GP if one was provided when they were admitted to hospital. If the client’s current GP does not have access to a report, it is possible that the client’s previous medical practice still has access to their records.
If your client has been treated by a public mental health service, either as an inpatient or in the community, the Court Mental Health Advice and Response Service – operated by Forensicare (Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health) in most courts – will be able to provide information on their mental health related hospital admissions history, including whether your client is or has previously been registered with a designated Mental Health Service. This information can assist in determining when your client had treatment, who may be working with them, and who to contact for more information.
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is another way of obtaining your client’s public health records if you are unable to get them through a GP.
For clients who are eligible for VLA funding, a grant of legal assistance will usually include funds available to cover the costs of an FOI request.
FOI procedures and timeframes vary between health services. Being as specific as possible about the information you are looking for should reduce the processing time of your request.
Judicial officers have discretion to order Forensicare to assess an individual and provide a pre-sentence report for court.
However, relying on this option can create a delay while the report is prepared, and you will not have any control over what information is disclosed to the court.
The following services may also be able to provide old reports or information:
Supporting Justice © Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University, 2019
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