Magistrates Court of Western Australia

Start Court

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. The court sits Tuesdays to Fridays.

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. If a ‘Not Guilty’ plea is entered and maintained, the accused is ineligible for the Start Court program.

An assessment of suitability for the program will be undertaken with applicants, after they have attended a Start Court Information Session at the direction of the Court.

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.

Start Court is overseen by Operational and Steering Committees that include representatives from participating agencies as well as independent consumer and family representatives.

Key contacts for the Start Court:

Magistrates Court Perth
Start Court Coordinator
Phone: (08) 9425 3422

Start Court Clinical Team and Outcare Inc.
Phone: (08) 6372 4400

Mental Health Law Centre
Phone: (08) 9328 8012

Further information regarding the Mental Health Court Diversion and Support Program (including information on providing feedback) can be found on the Mental Health Commission website.

Last updated: 7-Jan-2021

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