START Court Mental Health Court Diversion and Support Program

Western Australia’s START Court stands for Specialised Treatment and Referral Team. It is a court based diversion program designed to assist those charged with criminal offences to address their mental health and associated issues before they are sentenced.

START Court is designed to reduce reoffending by improving the mental health and well-being of participants.

The program aims to provide participants with supervision while they receive holistic support that aims to address the underlying causes of their offending behaviour. One of the primary aims of the program is to link people to community services that are able to assist with services such as counselling for alcohol abuse, getting appropriate treatment for mental health issues or assistance with secure housing.

There is a similar program in the Children’s Court.

The adult program is run from Central Law Courts (Perth Magistrates Court) in the Perth CBD. The court sits Tuesdays to Fridays. The START program can take up to six months to complete.

It is a voluntary program for those who accept they are guilty of one or more criminal offence. If you wish to plead not guilty:  you cannot use the program.

START Court is operated by a magistrate, mental health clinicians, community support coordinators, peer support workers, legal representation, Police, and Community Corrections personnel.

A referral for assessment is required to participate, and it needs to be accepted to join. You will be required to sign a consent form and attend an information session. An assessment report is prepared for the magistrate. The report will deal with issues such as whether or not your treatment needs are currently being met in the community and whether or not you are suitable for the program. If you are accepted into the START Court program: you then moved to the program stage. If you are represented by a criminal lawyer, they will assist you with the assessment phase.

If you are accepted into the START Court program, you will be required to sign a contract whereby you agree to adhere to the terms of the program. You will have regular check ins with the Court where the magistrate will be provided with updates regarding your progress. You will have a key worker assigned to you who is usually someone from the clinical team or Community Corrections. Your key worker will assist you in developing goals and strategies designed to address your needs. The program phase takes approximately six months to complete. Participants are on bail subject to conditions during this period. Conditions of bail can include providing samples for urinalysis.

The final phase of the program is graduation and sentencing. The magistrate will usually request a report from community corrections. The report will review your progress on the program as well as making any further recommendations in respect of any unmet treatment needs. You will also be given a recovery plan to assist you with your mental health after graduation.

If you have a mental health concern it is a good idea to contact your GP or mental health professional. If the matter is urgent you may contact Mental Health Emergency Response Line (MHERL) in Perth 1300 555 788 the nearest emergency department or call 000.

If you are interested in participating in the START Court program, one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers can assist you with court representation and sound legal advice. Call us today on 1300 274 692.

For advice that is relevant to your individual circumstances: please make an appointment with one of our experienced criminal lawyers by calling Paxman & Paxman on 1300 274 692.