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Mental Health: Reduced Sentence For “Chronic Mental Health Issues”

, Mental Health: Reduced Sentence For “Chronic Mental Health Issues”

Mental Health: Reduced Sentence For “Chronic Mental Health Issues”

THE CASE: POLICE OFFICER STABBED AT SYDNEY’S CENTRAL STATION

Readers may recall of an incident on the news in April 2019 which saw CCTV footage of a man who stabbed a police officer in the back with a large 30-centimetre hunting knife. The unprovoked attacked occurred at around 7:00pm on a busy Friday night with many civilian onlookers in close proximity. Immediately drawing their firearms, the police officers managed to subdue the man using a taser. He was subsequently charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm pursuant to section 33 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

THE OFFENDER: MARK THOMPSON

After being conveyed to the nearby police station, Mr Thompson agreed to an interview with police in relation to the incident. The Court heard that during the interview with police, Mr Thompson expressed that he “couldn’t remember stabbing anyone” and stated “all of a sudden I remember just losing it, just lost the plot”.

During his sentencing hearing, the District Court heard evidence that Mr Thompson suffered from schizophrenia, a chronic mental health condition he had be diagnosed with since the age of 44 (Mr Thompson was 54 at the time of sentence). The condition, which his psychiatrist had diagnosed, caused Mr Thompson to experience hearing voices and the belief that he had “carried” spirits within his body. Although treatment was made available to him, Mr Thompson stated that the medications would cause adverse side-effects which caused “a warzone” inside his head.

APPLICATION OF THE MENTAL HEALTH FORENSIC PROCEDURE ACT 1990 (MHFPA)

In one of our previous posts, our Principal Michael Moussa explained the operation of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW) in matters where a person “appears to be a mentally ill person”. Although the incident involving Mr Thompson was not dealt with under section 32 or section 33 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990, it is important to discuss the availability of possible options at law.

Section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW) states:

(1) If, at the commencement or at any time during the course of the hearing of proceedings before a Magistrate, it appears to the Magistrate:

(a) that the defendant is (or was at the time of the alleged commission of the offence to which the proceedings relate):

(i) developmentally disabled, or

(ii) suffering from mental illness, or

(iii) suffering from a mental condition for which treatment is available in a mental health facility, but is not a mentally ill person, and

(b) that, on an outline of the facts alleged in the proceedings or such other evidence as the Magistrate may consider relevant, it would be more appropriate to deal with the defendant in accordance with the provisions of this Part than otherwise in accordance with law.

(3) The Magistrate may make an order dismissing the charge and discharge the defendant:

(a) into the care of a responsible person, unconditionally or subject to conditions, or

(b) on the condition that the defendant attend on a person or at a place specified by the Magistrate:

(i) for assessment or treatment (or both) of the defendant’s mental condition or cognitive impairment, or

(ii) to enable the provision of support in relation to the defendant’s cognitive impairment or

(c) unconditionally.

If an accused person claims to be suffering from a mental illness or disability, a section 32 application may be made. An experienced criminal defence lawyer will make submissions before a Magistrate in an effort to persuade the Court that the accused was suffering from a mental health condition, and accordingly should be dealt with in accordance with the mental health provisions as opposed to being dealt with under law.  Usually, the criminal defence lawyer will have medical legal reports from a qualified professional prepared and will tender them to the Magistrate for consideration.

Should a section 32 application be successful, the Magistrate may order the discharge of the accused into the care of a facility for treatment. Usually, this will include adhering to a treatment plan for a period of six months where the accused must comply with a number of strict conditions. Should the accused be in breach of any conditions made in relation to a section 32 order, he or she will be brought back before the Court.

THE SENTENCE OF MARK THOMPSON

Mr Thompson chose not to rely on the provisions contained in the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1900 (NSW). Rather, Mr Thompson’s sentence was reached on the basis of mitigation due to his underlying schizophrenia.  The maximum penalty for wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent is 25 years imprisonment. However, by giving proper consideration to the totality of the criminality involved, Judge Gina O’Rourke sentenced Mr Thompson to 6 years imprisonment, and he will be eligible for parole in 2023.

In handing down sentence, Judge O’Rourke referred to Mr Thompson’s medical condition and the intention behind his offence. The Court heard that Mr Thompson attacked the police officer with a belief that either he [the police officer] or his colleagues would open fire and shoot him dead. Mr Thompson expressed remorse for his offending and was afforded the full utilitarian discount of a plea of guilty, namely 25 percent.

WHAT DOES THIS MATTER TELL US?

This blog was written with the intention of informing readers that an accused person may often require professional legal representation in order to obtain the best possible result, even if the accused has entered into a plea of guilty. Should you retain National Criminal Lawyers®, one of our specialist Blacktown Criminal Lawyers will advocate your matter in a way that ensures the best possible sentence.

Book your first free appointment with National Criminal lawyers now.
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