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Psychiatric Probation Orders

The content on this page was last reviewed on 03 May 2012.

1. Overview

The Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) makes available to the court alternatives in lieu of passing sentence when dealing with a person suffering from a mental illness. These options include:

Under s 20BV(1), the court may make an order that a person convicted of a federal offence reside at, or attend, a specified hospital in order to receive psychiatric treatment. This is known as a Psychiatric Probation Order.

To make a Psychiatric Probation Order the court must be satisfied that the person is suffering from a mental illness within the meaning of the civil law of that State or Territory: s 20BV(1)(a).

Where a court is sentencing a person suffering from an intellectual disability the court may make a Program Probation Order pursuant to s 20BY. See federal commentary: Program Probation Orders.

2. Where a psychiatric probation order may be made

The court may, without passing sentence, make a psychiatric probation order where:

  • the person is convicted in a State or Territory of a federal offence: s 20BV(1);

and the court is satisfied that:

  • the person is suffering from a mental illness within the meaning of the civil law of that State or Territory: s 20BV(1)(a); and
  • the illness contributed to the commission of the offence by the person: s 20BV(1)(b); and
  • appropriate psychiatric treatment for the person is available in a hospital or other place in that State or Territory: s 20BV(1)(c); and
  • the person consents to the order being made: s 20BV(1)(d).

The court must not make an order unless the person, or their legal guardian, consents to the proposed treatment: s 20BV(2).

Note: A Psychiatric Probation Order is made without passing sentence on the person. No other sentence may be imposed on the offender in relation to the same offence. 1

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3. What a psychiatric probation order must specify

The psychiatric probation order must specify that the person reside at, or attend:

  • a specified hospital for the purpose of receiving that psychiatric treatment: s 20BV(1).

The treatment to be undertaken by the person may be varied on application: s 20BV(4).

A psychiatric probation order is subject to the following conditions:

  • for a specified period not exceeding 2 years, the person will be subject to the supervision, and obey all instructions of, an appointed probation officer: s 20BV(3)(a); and
  • for a specified period not exceeding 5 years, the person will be of good behaviour: s20BV(3)(b).

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4. Breach of a psychiatric probation order

Where a psychiatric probation order has been made and information is laid before a magistrate, before or after the end of the period in s 20BV(3), alleging the person has without reasonable excuse failed to comply, the magistrate may:

  • issue a summons directing the person to appear before the court by which the order was made: s 20BW(1)(a), or
  • if the information is given on oath and the magistrate is of the opinion that the summons might not be effective – issue an arrest warrant: s 20BW(1)(b).

Where a person fails to comply with a summons or bail conditions, the court may issue an arrest warrant: s 20BW(2).

An arrest warrant authorises the detention of the person in custody until the person is released by order of the court: s 20BW(3).

Where a person has been arrested under a warrant and the court is not sitting, a magistrate may:

  • remand the person on bail on appropriate recognizance: s 20BW(4)(a); or
  • direct that the person be kept in custody: s 20BW(4)(b).

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5. Enforcement of a psychiatric probation order

Where the court, in which the psychiatric probation order was made, is satisfied that a person has, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with a condition of the order, the court may:

In determining what action to take, the court must, in addition to any other matters, take into account:

Note: State or Territory law regarding enforcement or recovery of a fine imposed on an offender applies to a pecuniary penalty imposed under s 20BX(1)(a): s 20BX(4). See also s 15A.

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6. Right of appeal

Where a person who has been released under s 20BV is dealt with under s 20BX(1), the person has rights of appeal: s 20BX(3).

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  1.   R Fox and A Freiberg, Sentencing: State and Federal Law in Victoria (2nd ed, 1999), [10.218].