Opening stirs debate

People with Disabilities WA executive director and Stirling councillor Samantha Jenkinson.
People with Disabilities WA executive director and Stirling councillor Samantha Jenkinson.

People with Disabilities WA executive director and Stirling councillor Samantha Jenkinson commended Mental Health Minister Helen Morton for her leadership in implementing the centre after legislative reform in 1996 allowed people to be placed in declared places rather than prisons.

��Minister Morton is the first minister in 19 years to take action on this,� she said.

�This site has had challenges but this is a milestone that deserves recognition. We do not want to see these types of places become alternate prisons because the law isn�t changed to bring some finality to people�s custody.�

Developmental Disability WA chief executive Taryn Harvey agreed that unless the law was changed there was a risk that the disability justice centre could become a new form of indefinite custody.

�An alternative custodial setting to prison is an essential first step. People who have not been convicted should not be in our jails. But the law still allows for indefinite custody and that�s where we now need the government�s leadership,� she said.

Disability, mental health and legal advocates are awaiting findings of a 2014 review of the Criminal Law (Mental Impaired Accused) Act 1996 that regulates the treatment of mental impaired accused.